WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH), a member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), chairman of the Committee, introduced bipartisan legislation to help bolster the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) visa security screening process, which helps prevent terrorists and other national security threats from entering the United States.
The bipartisan Visa Security Expansion Act would expand DHS’s Visa Security Program to more U.S. embassies and consulates over the next 10 years. These units consist of Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations agents who are trained in counterterrorism and assist the State Department’s Consular Officers in conducting interviews for non-immigrant visas applicants. These counterterrorism professionals are one of the first lines of defense in preventing terrorists and criminals from legally traveling to the United States.
“With the fall of ISIS’s caliphate, I am deeply concerned about the threat that ISIS foreign fighters, armed with western passports, could pose to our homeland and our allies,” Senator Hassan said. “This bipartisan legislation will help protect us from this threat by expanding the number of counterterrorism agents who aid the State Department in making decisions about whether to grant U.S. visas to foreign nationals. I look forward to working with Senator Johnson to build support for this critical bill, and will continue working across the aisle to ensure our country remains safe, secure, and free.”
“I am pleased to introduce this bipartisan legislation with Senator Hassan to expand DHS’s Visa Security Program,” said Senator Johnson. “Our legislation would bolster national security by placing agents with subject matter expertise and specialized training at posts deemed to be the highest risk. This program plays a crucial role in keeping the U.S. safe from terrorists and criminals, and our legislation would strengthen this important front of our national security.”
The bipartisan bill instructs DHS and the Department of State to add Visa Security units in at least two U.S. embassies or consulates each year. The bill pays for this by establishing a security fee on non-immigrant visas applications. The bill also requires DHS to implement and adhere to outcome-based performance metrics for these units.
Bolstering Visa Security teams has been a longstanding priority of Senator Hassan, and in 2018, the Senator participated in a bipartisan Congressional delegation to the United Kingdom, Israel, Jordan, and Greece, where she received a briefing from U.S. personnel in Israel on Visa Security teams.
The Senator is also focused on strengthening federal counterterrorism efforts, and earlier this year, Senators Hassan and Johnson introduced bipartisan legislation to establish a federal commission to reevaluate counterterrorism information sharing and the ability of federal, state, and local law enforcement to identify, track, and prevent all terrorist threats in the United States. Additionally, Senator Hassan joined Senator James Lankford (R-OK) in calling for answers on what the DHS, FBI, and Intelligence Community are doing to address ongoing and emerging terrorist threats amid the COVID-19 pandemic. And last September, Senator Hassan joined Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) in introducing the Reporting Efficiently to Proper Officials in Response to Terrorism (REPORT) Act, which requires federal agencies to report to Congress after a terrorist attack with information about exactly what happened and recommendations to prevent future attacks.
Read the text of the Senators’ bill here.