Quoted: Tech leaders call for changes to new ‘discriminatory’ visa travel rules

“Discriminating based on national heritage is inconsistent with American values… We protest this just as vigorously as if Congress had mandated special travel papers for citizens based on their faith or the color of their skin. In the balancing act between fighting terrorism and upholding American liberties, these provisions go too far.”

from an open letter to Congress by tech leaders, which was posted Tuesday on Change.org’s website.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, PayPal co-founder Max Levchin, venture capitalist Mike Moritz and many others signed the letter, which calls for Congress to repeal new restrictions on visa-free travel for people, most from European countries, who have traveled to Iran, Iraq, Syria or Sudan in the past five years. The rules also require visas for those who are dual citizens of those four countries.

Late last month, the Department of Homeland Security began implementing changes to the Visa Waiver Program as a result of changes passed by Congress in response to the Paris terrorist attacks — and signed into law by President Obama in December.

The tech leaders’ letter also makes a business case for rolling back the restrictions, saying they’re bad for business.

“Millions of European, Japanese, and Korean citizens travel as employees, customers, and suppliers of American firms,” the letter says. “Requiring many of them to get visas imposes bureaucratic delays on U.S. firms. This reduces the agility and liberty of U.S. firms, makes us less competitive in the global economy, and will ultimately cost jobs.”

The tech leaders say they support a proposed bill, the Equal Protection in Travel Act.

Bay Area legislators Zoe Lofgren and Anna Eshoo, both Democrats from Silicon Valley, wrote an op-ed about the issue for the Mercury News last month in response to concerns that the new rules would make life difficult for Iranian-Americans. (Iranian law extends citizenship to many, which complicates the dual citizenship issue.)

Lofgren and Eshoo said the new rules would improve security: “It requires screening of all travelers against Interpol databases. It makes it harder to falsify identity by requiring fraud-resistant e-passports that contain biometric information. And it compels U.S. security agencies to conduct more frequent threat assessments of VWP countries.”



Photo from Thinkstock


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