Tell Congress: Oppose inclusion of Israel in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program until discriminatory regulations withdrawn
The United States Visa Waiver Program (VWP) waives visa requirements for the foreign nationals of approximately 40 countries for short-term stays in the U.S. It is reciprocal in nature, so the other country must accept the same or similar conditions for U.S. travelers.
For some time the state of Israel has expressed interest in being part of the program. However, since Israel announced and began implementing its new regulations — effectively restricting certain people, including some U.S. citizens of Arab heritage or Muslim faith, from traveling to or residing in the occupied West Bank — concerns have been raised about its discriminatory nature.
Last month U.S. Rep. David Beyer, D-Va.; U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.; and 18 other House members wrote a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken calling upon the Biden administration to “press Israel to withdraw” the discriminatory regulations “as a requirement for Israel’s entry into the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).”
In their letter, Beyer and Tlaib noted that the Department of Homeland Security earlier told them “Israel does not currently meet all VWP designation requirements, including extending reciprocal visa-free travel privileges to all U.S. citizens and nationals.” Also, Vedant Patel, principal deputy spokesperson at the State Department, said that, in discussions with Israel about its VWP candidacy, the department “continue[s] to work with Israel towards fulfilling all Visa Waiver Program requirements such as extending reciprocal privileges to all U.S. citizens and nationals, including Palestinian Americans. And we seek equal treatment and freedom to travel for all U.S. citizens regardless of national origin.”
The new Israeli regulations are part of an ongoing pattern of restrictions on movement and access in the West Bank whose impact is of humanitarian concern.
Members of Congress should be encouraged to request that the State Department oppose Israel’s acceptance into the Visa Waiver Program unless it withdraws its discriminatory regulations.
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