Calling it a “knee-jerk reaction,” Rep. Jim McDermott was one of 19 lawmakers to vote against an anti-terrorism bill imposing new visa restrictions.
Seattle Rep. Jim McDermott was one of 19 U.S. House members to oppose a bill imposing new visa travel restrictions in the wake of recent terrorist attacks.
The House on Tuesday passed legislation to tighten a visa-waiver program that allows citizens of 38 countries to travel to the U.S. for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa.
Among other changes, the legislation would require visas for foreign travelers who have within the last five years visited Syria, Iraq and other countries considered terrorism hot spots.
McDermott, a 14-term Democratic congressman, was the only member of Washington’s delegation to vote against the measure, which passed on a 407-19 vote and heads to the Senate.
In a statement Wednesday, McDermott said the U.S. has strong screening of foreign travelers and argued the bill imposed “new and unnecessary restrictions” on visa waivers “that amount to discriminatory practices” against foreign nationals and people with dual citizenships.
“This legislation is the kind of unwelcome knee-jerk reaction that comes with heightened anxiety and fear,” McDermott said. “We have a responsibility in this country to be vigilant in the face of terrorist threats, but never at the expense of the rights and privileges dual-citizens are afforded regardless of their national
The rest of Washington’s U.S. House delegation supported the measure, introduced by Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich.
Rep. Suzan DelBene, Democrat from Medina, said the restrictions were warranted given recent terrorist attacks.
“The safety of Americans is my top priority and it is clear that ISIL poses a growing threat to America and our allies,” DelBene said in a written statement. “We must work with the international community to combat the terrorist threats of ISIL, not only for the security of the American people but for the security of people around the world.”