The Department of Homeland Security continues in its attempts to balance security considerations and hospitality to foreign visitors.
The fascinating dilemma it confronts can be highlighted by press releases issued on subsequent days, August the 5th and August the 6th. There was an August 5 announcement of a Tri-lateral agreement with Canada and Mexico to expand Trusted Traveler Programs while on the 6th, an announcement regarding its intention to implement security enhancements to the Visa Waiver Program.
On Wednesday, August 5, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson reported on signing with his Canadian and Mexican counterparts, an agreement expanding the U.S. Canada NEXUS Trusted Traveler Program by opening it to Mexican nationals who are members of Mexico’s Viajero Confiable Program , while also allowing Canadian citizens who are members of NEXUS to apply for Viajero Confiable. U.S. citizens are currently eligible to apply both for NEXUS and Viajero Confiable Trusted Traveler Programs through existing partnerships between U.S. Custom and Border Protection (CBP), Public Safety Canada, and Mexico’s National Institute of Migration.
These programs allow for expedited arrival screening for pre-approved travelers from all three countries.
The very next day on Thursday, August 6, Secretary Johnson announced that the U.S. government was taking significant steps to increase security for the Visa Waiver Program. These include required use of e-passports for all Visa Waiver Program travelers coming to the United States; required use of the Interpol Lost and Stolen Passport Database to screen travelers crossing a visa waiver country’s borders, and permission for the expanded use of federal air marshals on international flights from visa waiver countries to the United States.
While all this is going on, there is a bill pending in the House of Representatives – the Jobs Originated through Launching Travel Act, with 87 co-sponsors, split between 47 democrats and 40 republicans that would facilitate more countries participating in the visa waiver program.
Presidential candidates may be obsessing over the 400,000 undocumented aliens apprehended at the Mexican border and the handful that might be criminals. Meanwhile, the United States admitted into the United States, more than 170 million visitors last year, which poses the real challenge to an open and democratic society that must maintain high security standards.