House GOP seeks to increase visa security process

House GOP seeks to increase visa security process
© Greg Nash

House Republicans are pushing for more changes to the nation’s visa protocols, worried that current standards could present a security risk.    

Months after tightening a visa-free entry system for some foreigners, lawmakers now want to further beef up the visa process and add new layers of security.

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“From the 9/11 terrorist attacks to the more recent attack in San Bernardino, we are reminded that terrorists have and will continue to exploit our nation’s immigration system to carry out their heinous plots,” Rep. Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteUSCIS chief Cuccinelli blames Paul Ryan for immigration inaction Immigrant advocacy groups shouldn't be opposing Trump's raids Top Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview MORE (R-Va.), the head of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement unveiling the new bill Thursday.

“Visa security is critical to national security and we must address gaping holes in our immigration system that allow those who wish Americans harm and fraudsters to game the system.”

The new bill, called the Visa Integrity and Security Act, includes multiple tweaks to current visa laws, and does not target one program in particular.

The effort is a sign of Capitol Hill’s continued unease with current visa protections.

Scrutiny on the visa process mounted following terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino last year. The killers in the November attacks in Paris were all European nationals, and could have theoretically entered the U.S. without a visa. Tashfeen Malik, the woman involved in the husband-wife massacre in San Bernardino, came into the U.S. through a marriage visa. 

“Terrorists use travel documents as weapons,” Rep. Randy ForbesJames (Randy) Randy ForbesToo much ‘can do,’ not enough candor Trump makes little headway filling out Pentagon jobs Why there's only one choice for Trump's Navy secretary MORE (R-Va.), another author of the Visa Integrity and Security Act, said in a statement.

“As we have witnessed, the failure to properly vet all foreign nationals seeking entry into the United States could result in the loss of innocent Americans,” echoed Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdySunday shows preview: 2020 Democrats jockey for top spot ahead of Nevada caucuses Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for week two of impeachment trial Green says House shouldn't hold impeachment articles indefinitely MORE (R-S.C.).

The new bill would expand a Homeland Security Department program that deploys special agents to investigate visas and monitor for fraud. That visa security program would be deployed worldwide under the legislation, subjecting all visa applicants to the extra scrutiny.

The effort would also require extra government certification for travelers from “countries of concern,” including Iraq, Iran, Sudan and Syria; mandate that visa officers screen social media and other public information for visa applicants; and conduct in-person interviews for people already in the U.S. looking to change their immigration status.

It would also require DNA tests for immigrants looking for visas for the their family members and mandate that the Department of Homeland Security develop analytical software to detect fraud.