Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans .

Senator Schumer Contacts Department of Homeland Security Questioning Delays of Non-Immigrant Visas to Iranian Nationals



Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Washington D.C., March 9, 2004 – At the request of the Iranian American Political Action Committee (IAPAC), Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) contacted the Department of Homeland Security to inquire about the delays over the issuance of non-immigrant visas caused by the interim procedures currently in place to enforce Section 306 of the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002. Since its inception, IAPAC has been working closely with Senator Schumer with respect to the potential impact of this Act’s implementation of Section 306. Specifically, Section 306 contemplates a ban on the issuance of all non-immigrant visas to residents or nationals of the seven countries that appear on the Department of State's list of state sponsors of international terrorism - including Iran. The legislation has given rise to concerns that matters such as family visitation and emergency medical care for loved ones may become extremely difficult.

In his letter to Secretary Tom Ridge at the Department of Homeland Security,
Senator Schumer expressed his support for “comprehensive screening measures.” He thanked Secretary Ridge for “moving swiftly to implement procedures to ensure that individuals granted non-immigrant visas have a valid reason for visiting the United States and pose no harm to our country or its citizens.” However, Senator Schumer expressed concerns that these policies might increase the approval time for visas because of security clearances. Many people who should have been able to enter the United States promptly for medical treatment or family events have been forced to forgo their visits because they are unable to receive proper security clearances.

To substantiate his point, Senator Schumer explained how constituent representatives in his office have dealt with a number of cases. He gave an example of one Iranian national who is a permanent resident of the United Kingdom and who used to make trips to the Mayo Clinic for medical care, but is now unable to secure a visa for his treatment. Senator Schumer spoke of another Iranian citizen who has been waiting for months to visit her husband of fifty years who is severely ill and hospitalized.

Senator Schumer’s concerns were previously communicated to representatives from the agency during meetings in December 2002 and March 2003. At the request of IAPAC, Senator Schumer presented to the participants specific recommendations drafted by the
Iranian American Bar Association on how Section 306 should be interpreted. Senator Schumer believes we may be expending precious security resources on visitors who pose no threat to the U.S. and that the criterion of background checks may be too broad. “We must be aggressive in our efforts to detect and eliminate terrorist threats without doing away with the strengths upon which we stand as a nation,” says Schumer.

Paid for by the Iranian American Political Action Committee (IAPAC). This communication is not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. Contributions are not tax-deductible as charitable deductions for federal tax purposes.

IAPAC is a registered bi-partisan federal political committee that contributes to candidates for federal office who are attuned to the domestic needs of the Iranian American community. IAPAC focuses exclusively on domestic policy issues such as civil rights and civil liberties, and encourages Iranian Americans to actively participate in the electoral process, to vote and run for political office.