Republicans grant Obama waiver authority on weak visa bill

· December 22, 2015  
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President Barack Obama tips his cap to a crowd of onlookers after hitting a long chip shot on the 18th hole during a round of golf at Mid-Pacific Country Club, Monday, Dec. 21, 2015, in Kailua, Hawaii. Evan Vucci | AP Photo

Remember that phony visa waiver bill the House passed a few weeks ago and included in the omnibus last week?  Well, it turns out the bill grants President Obama waiver authority to escape even the most milquetoast provisions of the bill.

H.R. 158, sponsored by Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI), does not prevent a single refugee, immigrant, or traveler from coming here from the Middle East.  It merely addresses European countries that are exempt from the requirement to obtain a visa in order to travel here on business or for tourism.  But rather than requiring all Europeans to obtain visas and bar those European nationals who travel to terror-supporting countries from entering the U.S., it simply requires that those with dual citizenship from Syria, Iraq, Sudan, and Iran who have also traveled to those countries in the past five years must obtain a visa to enter the U.S.

As we noted at the time, this bill is worthless because many who’ve traveled to those countries do not show up on the databases, and if they do they should be inadmissible (except under certain circumstances) under current policy.  In other words, this bill does not protect us from a single problematic immigrant or traveler.  It just requires a visa of those who we already know should not enter the country at all!

Now we discover that even this provision will be waived for Iran.  After Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, raised a stink over this provision of the bill, John Kerry informed him he could use executive waiver authority to spare Iranian nationals of European countries the “extra scrutiny.”

Here is the relevant portion of Kerry’s letter to Zarif:

“I am also confident that the recent changes in visa requirements passed in Congress, which the Administration has the authority to waive, will not in any way prevent us from meeting our JCPOA commitments, and that we will implement them so as not to interfere with legitimate business interests of Iran. To this end, we have a number of potential tools available to us, including multiple entry ten-year business visas, programs for expediting business visas, and the waiver authority provided under the new legislation. I am happy to discuss this further and provide any additional clarification.” 

While everyone is rightfully focused on this appalling act of friendship between the Obama administration and Iran, the question that is being overlooked is how this administration has the authority to waive the requirement for a visa of Iranian nationals traveling here from European countries.  Is this another example of executive lawlessness?

Nope, it’s congressional incompetence.  Once again, Congress has written a loosely constructed statute knowing full well this administration would abuse it.  Take a look at Sec. 3(C) of the bill:

(C) WAIVER.—The Secretary of Homeland Security may waive the application of subparagraph (A) to an alien if the Secretary determines that such a waiver is in the law enforcement or national security interests of the United States.

As always, Obama will take this waiver of Congress, which is supposed to be applied case-by-case, and make it a de facto categorical exception for Iran.  For Obama, keeping Iran happy reflects our national security interests.

Predictably, Republicans are expressing outrage over Kerry’s promise to shield Iran from the visa requirement, but they have nobody to blame but themselves.

Remember, the Gang of Eight bill had these sort of waivers applied to almost every important provision of the bill. This is why we have lost our immigration policy over the years and it no longer reflects the will of the people. Congress has allowed the executive branch to void out every important enforcement provision. But for this Congress to have granted this president such authority tells you everything you need to know about their commitment to representing the will of their constituents and protecting us against Obama during his most lawless year in office.


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Author: Daniel Horowitz

Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.