Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Facts Ahead of Fears

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Facts Ahead of Fears

Article excerpt

Washington is displaying a rare outbreak of sanity on the subject of terrorism and refugees.

Since the Paris attacks, pandering and posturing have dominated the capital and the campaign trail. But now, both parties are focusing on what Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, calls the "soft underbelly" of America's security system -- a waiver program that allows travelers from 38 countries to enter the United States without a visa.

Most of those countries are in Europe, and there's rising concern that bad guys holding passports from places like France or Belgium could use the process to sneak into this country and stage assaults. The heartening response: a bipartisan effort to tighten loopholes terrorists might exploit.

The White House announced a series of measures this week that include increasing intelligence-sharing with countries in the program and forming "foreign fighter surge teams" to help those nations prevent terrorists from traveling to the United States.

Speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press," Homeland Security chief Jeh Johnson said, "The visa waiver program is something that we've focused on, frankly, since I've been secretary, because there are a number of foreign terrorist fighters who have gone into Iraq and Syria from countries in Europe and elsewhere."

But the administration can only do so much through executive action.

Feinstein has teamed with Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, to draft a bill barring anyone who has traveled to Iraq or Syria in the past five years from obtaining a visa waiver. Instead, they would have to submit to a personal interview before traveling here.

Rep. Candice Miller, a Michigan Republican, proposes suspending a country's participation in the program if it fails to share information about terrorist travels with American officials. Republican leaders promise a bill by the end of the year. The key is keeping out terrorists while facilitating the flow of tourists and business executives who contribute billions of dollars annually to the domestic economy. …

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