Information from the Office of Senator Barbara Mikulski:
February 26, 2007

"This proposal is long overdue and rights a wrong in America's visa program."

WASHINGTON, D.C. - As the Senate begins consideration of the Improving America's Security Act of 2007 (S.4) today, Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) is applauding the inclusion of her proposal with Senator George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) that would authorize an expansion of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

"I have fought for years to expand the VWP so our allies can visit family and conduct business in the United States without standing in line to get a visa," said Senator Mikulski. "We know that our borders will be no less secure because of these visitors. But we know that our alliances will be more secure because of this legislation."

As a condition for program participation, all participants would implement enhanced travel security requirements, negotiate new agreements on counterterrorism cooperation, and demonstrate their close cooperation with the United States in the Global War on Terror.

Senator Mikulski has fought - and introduced several bipartisan proposals - to have Poland added to the VWP, citing Poland's importance as a close U.S. ally. Polish troops have been fighting alongside American troops since the start of the War in Iraq, where 17 Polish soldiers have been killed and more than 20 have been injured. Today, nearly 1,000 Polish troops are still on the ground in Iraq, and next year Poland will send more than 1,000 troops to Afghanistan to lead NATO's International Security Assistance Force.

"The United States is blessed with few allies as stalwart as Poland. But we tell a grandmother in Gdansk she needs a visa to visit her grandchildren in America," said Senator Mikulski. "Poland is a NATO ally and a member of the European Union. But America's visa policy still treats Poland as a second-class citizen."

The VWP was established in 1986 as a pilot program to promote better relations with U.S. allies. Currently, 27 countries participate in the VWP. Statutory requirements for program participation include criteria concerning immigration patterns, security and law enforcement, reciprocal visa-free travel for U.S. citizens, as well as passports that are machine-readable.

The Improving America's Security Act of 2007 would implement unfulfilled recommendations of the 9-11 Commission by improving the nation's security against terrorism. The legislation includes provisions to increase risk-based homeland security grants to states, improve interoperable communications among first responders, and improve information sharing.

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Melissa Schwartz
Communications Director
Office of Senator Barbara Mikulski
(202) 228-1122 (phone)
(202) 224-3892 (fax)
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