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Sen. Boxer: Israel visa bill doesn't condone discrimination

May 05, 2013
  • Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) has introduced legislation to include Israel in the visa waiver program, which would make it easier for Israelis to travel to the U.S.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) has introduced legislation to include Israel… (Win McNamee / Getty Images )

Re "Israel's free pass from Boxer," Opinion, April 28

George Bisharat grossly misleads readers when he claims that bipartisan legislation I introduced would allow Israel to "continue racially profiling Americans of Arab and Muslim heritage who travel to Israel."

My legislation would give Israel the opportunity to join the U.S. visa waiver program, allowing Israeli citizens to travel to the United States without first obtaining a visa — a privilege extended to 37 other countries. But to qualify, Israel must meet a number of stringent requirements related to U.S. national security and equal treatment for U.S. citizens.

The current visa waiver program requires participating countries to offer "reciprocal" travel privileges to Americans. My bill does not waive this requirement. In fact, it gives us important leverage to ensure Israel welcomes Americans by requiring a certification from our secretaries of Homeland Security and State that Israel has made "every" reasonable effort to grant reciprocal travel privileges to "all" Americans.

My legislation does note that Israel retains the right to deny entry to individuals based on national security concerns — a right enjoyed by every country around the globe. In fact, the U.S. explicitly warns countries that are granted entry into the visa waiver program that we retain the ability to deny entry to any foreign national who represents a "threat to the welfare, health, safety or security of the United States."

I am proud of my record of strong support for America's strongest allies, including Israel, as well as my long-standing commitment to defend civil liberties for all Americans.

Sen. Barbara Boxer



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