Hurd introduces bill to enhance visa-screening capabilities at embassies, airport checkpoints

Legislation introduced on Wednesday by U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) would enhance visa-screening processes at overseas U.S. embassies.

The Strong Visa Integrity Secures America Act, H.R.5253, would authorize the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to assign counterterrorism personnel and biometric screening technologies at 30 U.S. embassy locations around the world.

“As the threats against the United States continue to grow, we must respond by eliminating loopholes, strengthening screening measures, and deploying trained personnel,” Hurd, a former CIA officer and a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said. “Since 2014, nearly 40,000 foreign fighters from more than 120 countries have traveled to Syria to join or aid ISIS. We are not just looking at people from ISIS strongholds anymore—we must adequately screen westerners as well. There have already been over two dozen ISIS-linked attack plots inside the U.S., and we cannot afford to let would-be terrorists slip through the cracks.”

The additional security measures would be used to scan criminal, national security and terrorism databases for red flags in visa applicants.

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said that despite advancements in the visa screening process made since 2001, “terrorists and other nefarious actors have exploited the system to enter the United States.”

“Rep. Hurd knows this threat first-hand from his work conducting consular interviews as an undercover officer in the Central Intelligence Agency,” McCaul said. “The Strong Visa Integrity Secures America Act will significantly increase the security of the visa process by stationing specially trained law-enforcement officers at embassies and consulates around the world to prevent terrorists from ever boarding an airplane. As we have seen in the recent attacks in San Bernardino and elsewhere, visa security is an important element of security here at home, and this common-sense bill will help to prevent similar attacks in the future.”

The measure would require Customs and Border Patrol to use facial recognition and similar biometric technology when screening Visa Waiver Program travelers at airports.

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