Congress is getting ready to vote on a bill that will make it harder for people of certain ethnic backgrounds to enter the US from overseas, even if they’re US citizens.
One comic from Brooklyn from is so appalled, she’s taken to Facebook in the hopes to muster a lot of last-minute backlash against the bill.
The bill is HR-158, called the “Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015” and it has civil liberties groups up in arms, including The American Civil Liberties Union, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, and the National Iranian American Council, reports Politico.
It is a bipartisan effort to modify the Immigration and Nationality Act to include terrorism risk as a factor when determining if someone should be allowed to travel to the US.
While that sounds well and fine, what it really does is single out people who are of certain nationalities, were born to parents of certain nationalities, or have travelled to certain countries.
The bill would require these people to get visas to travel to the US. According to some intepretations, certain people would have to get a visa even to return home to the US.
As it stands now, the visa waiver program allows citizens of 38 participating countries to travel to the US from Europe, Japan, and South Korea for stays of 90 days or less without a visa.
This legislation would apply to people of Iranian, Iraqi, Sudanese, and Syrian nationality and (by some interpretations) could apply to people with dual citizenship. It would also mean that anyone who has travelled to those countries in the past five years would have to get visas before entering the country.
Comic calls the bill ‘racist’
When Brooklyn comic Mitra Jouhari heard about the bill, she was so outraged she posted a video to Facebook encouraging everyone to contact their representatives.
Jouhari is of Iranian descent. She obtained dual citizenship last year and got to visit her family’s homeland for the first time this summer. That would likely make her a target of this legislation.
Iranian-Americans are being targeted exclusively because of ancestry, which is unacceptable and frankly un-American.”
“The bill is so upsetting to me,” she told Business Insider. “Iranian-Americans are being targeted in a way that is alarming. People with other dual citizenship aren’t being targeted the way that people from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia are. It’s all knee jerk, it’s reactive, and it’s racist,” she says.
She posted her video to Facebook, “because I want people to see the faces of the people that are going to be affected by HR-158 if it passes,” she says. This follows the internet campaign by Iranian American lobby group NIAC to encourage people to call, email or tweet their representatives to stop this bill.
“It’s not uncommon for people to call two countries their own – in my case though, belonging to more than one place comes with a punishment and a label as a second-class citizen with the passage of HR-158. Iranian-Americans are being targeted exclusively because of ancestry, which is unacceptable and frankly un-American.”
The ACLU agrees with her. In a letter to the House of Representatives, the ACLU wrote,
“Affected travellers would include journalists, scholars, refugee caseworkers, humanitarian aid workers, human rights investigators, and many others. …
By singling out these four nationalities to the exclusion of other dual nationals in VWP [Visa Waiver Program] countries, H.R. 158 amounts to blanket discrimination based on nationality and national origin without a rational basis. …
“It is wrong and un-American to punish groups without reason solely based on their nationality, national origin, religion, gender, or other protected grounds.”
While Jouhari would like to see the whole bill fail, other groups want to see its language modified to be less sweeping. They also want to see an end-date “sunset” provision, reports Politico.
The Obama Administration wants the US open its doors to more Syrian refugees and has been more open to changing the visa waiver program as a trade-off, reports Politico.
Here’s Jouhari’s video appeal to stop HR-158.
HR-158 – the “Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015” is a racist bill that affects many people like Mitra Jouhari and it will be passed if we don’t act now. Contact your representatives here http://www.niacaction.org/niac-action-campaigns/
Posted by Hayley Kosan on Monday, December 14, 2015