Posted on March 26, 2014 in Press Releases
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Omar Tewfik, 202-652-4988
Arab American Institute Welcomes State Department Statement on Israel Visa Waiver
Washington, DC - March 26, 2014 - At the State Department’s daily press briefing last Friday, March 21, DoS Spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters “unequal treatment that Palestinian Americans and other Americans of Middle Eastern origin experience at Israel's border and checkpoints” precludes Israel from admittance to the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. Psaki’s statements come amid proposed legislation in both houses of Congress that would admit Israel into the Visa Waiver Program without meeting a number of statutory requirements. Those pieces of legislation are: The United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act (HR 938) coauthored by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Ted Deutch (D-FL), which passed the House on March 5, 2014 and The United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act (S. 462) sponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), which is stalled in the Senate.
At the March 21 briefing, Jen Psaki said:
"At this time, Israel does not comply with many of the Visa Waiver Program - it's a mouthful - eligibility requirements. And also, reciprocal visa-free travel privileges for U.S. citizens is among the requirements for a Visa Waiver Program. The Department of Homeland Security and State remain concerned with the unequal treatment that Palestinian Americans and other Americans of Middle Eastern origin experience at Israel's border and checkpoints, and reciprocity is the most basic condition of the Visa Waiver Program."
The Arab American Institute opposes both the House and Senate bills because of Israel’s long history and continued discrimination against Americans of Arab descent and others who may have advocated for Palestinian rights.
“This should have been the message all along - not just from the Administration but from Congress as well,” said AAI Executive Director Maya Berry. “Congress should not be proposing legislation that would reward Israel for discriminating against Americans; instead it should be protecting our rights. The State Department should be commended in this case for its commitment to protecting American civil rights because that is always what our issue with these bills has always been about.”