Home   

Polish American Congress
Washington Metropolitan Area Division

 

VISA WAIVER PROGRAM EXPANSION
As Part of The IMMIGRATION REFORM BILL
In the U.S. Senate

Background

In April 2006, Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) introduced an amendment to the Immigration Reform Bill extending the Visa Waiver Program to Poland (mentioned by name) and other countries which provide material support to the U.S. War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan. Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Bill Frist (R-TN, Senate Majority Leader) signed on as co-sponsors of the Amendment. The bill was not voted on before the Senate adjourned for Spring Recess on April 7.

After the recess, in May, a modified Immigration Reform Bill was introduced, and Senator Santorum again introduced an Amendment thereto, entitled Visa Waiver Program Expansion. It did not mention Poland by name, but the criteria for inclusion were crafted specifically with Poland in mind. Senators Mikulski and Frist again were co-sponsors.

The text of the Amendment (PDF, 19 KB)

  Amendment Accepted

On May 17, 2006, The Visa Waiver Program Expansion Amendment was considered by the full Senate and accepted unanimously.

Speeches by Sens. Santorum and Mikulski on the floor of the Senate, in support of acceptance, with emphasis on how the current program is unfair to Poland specifically. (PDF, 25KB)

Current Status (May 26, 2006)

The Senate passed the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill on May 25, by a vote of 62 to 36.

How local Senators voted:

Maryland Mikulski (D) For
Sarbanes (D) For
Virginia Allen (R) Against
Warner (R) For

The measure now goes to the House-Senate Conference Committee to resolve difference between the Immigration Reform Bills passed by the House and Senate. The House version is much more strict, treating all illegal aliens, and all persons who assist them in any way, as felons.

Also, the House version does not have the Visa Waiver Expansion provision. Therefore, there is a possibility that this amendment may be dropped in Conference.