August 13, 2004
No-Risk Visitors to Be Excused for Visa-Waiver OverstaysDetention, handcuffing inappropriate for minor violations, commissioner says
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Robert Bonner announced August 12 that CBP officers have new discretion to grant a one-time parole to no-risk travelers who have committed a minor violation in the past.
The new policy will end detention and handcuffing of visitors who overstayed on a prior visit under the Visa Waiver Program, according to a CBP press release. Bonner said that treatment was inappropriate for minor violations of the program.
"U.S. Customs and Border Protection is a law enforcement agency, but enforcement must always be tempered with common sense. If individuals are not a potential terrorist threat or criminal threat; nor are likely to contribute to the illegal population, and the overstay was short and inadvertent or for reasons beyond the applicant's control, CBP officers and supervisors have the authority to parole them into the United States," Commissioner Bonner said.
The Visa Waiver Program permits nationals from 27 designated countries to apply for admission to the United States for 90 days or less as nonimmigrant visitors for business or pleasure without first obtaining a visa. Under the visa waiver regulation, those who overstay as part of this program must obtain a visa for subsequent U.S. visits.
"I have concluded that there is an urgent humanitarian reason and a significant public benefit in granting parole where an individual seeking admission under the Visa Waiver Program poses no risk whatsoever," the commissioner said.
Information about CBP is available at http://www.customs.ustreas.gov/
Text of the CBP press release follows:
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commission
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Broadens Authority, Directs More Leeway for Admitting No Risk Visitors to the United States
(Thursday, August 12, 2004)
Washington, D.C. -- U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Robert C. Bonner announced today new discretion for CBP officers to grant no-risk travelers who overstayed under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) on a prior visit a one-time parole. The use of discretion by CBP supervisors will avoid the detention and handcuffing which Commissioner Bonner said was "inappropriate" for minor violations of the Visa Waiver Program.
Commissioner Bonner stated: "A number of situations have come to my attention where CBP officers have denied entry to travelers from Visa Waiver Countries, on their arrival at U.S. airports, because of brief, prior overstays, sometimes just a few days, of the Visa Waiver Program, although these travelers posed no threat whatsoever to the U.S. The consequence of the decision has been that the person has been detained, often overnight, until a flight back to the country from whence they came and handcuffed while transported to and from the detention facility. This treatment is grossly disproportionate to the inadvertent prior overstays. By my action today, I have directed CBP port directors and supervisors to see that parole is granted to permit entry, except where the person poses a threat for terrorism, criminality or is likely to become an economic migrant."
"U.S. Customs and Border Protection is a law enforcement agency, but enforcement must always be tempered with common sense. If individuals are not a potential terrorist threat or criminal threat; nor are likely to contribute to the illegal population, and the overstay was short and inadvertent or for reasons beyond the applicant's control, CBP officers and supervisors have the authority to parole them into the U.S.," added Commissioner Bonner. "Minor violators, who are no threat to the security of the U.S., should not be denied entry and be subject to handcuffing and detention. Granting this authority will help counter the disproportionate impact on travelers who pose no threat to the U.S. The action I have taken in no way lessens our commitment to keep terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country. In fact, it allows CBP's frontline in the war on terror to remain focused on stopping terrorists and other threats to U.S. security."
The Visa Waiver Program permits nationals from designated countries to apply for admission to the United States for 90 days or less as non-immigrant visitors for business or pleasure without first obtaining a visa. Under the Visa Waiver regulation, those individuals who overstay as part of the Visa Waiver Program must obtain a visa for subsequent visits to the U.S.
With this new authority, CBP port directors and supervisors at ports of entry can grant no-risk travelers who are VWP overstays a one-time parole into the U.S. Parole is granted on a case-by-case basis and those who receive it will be informed of their status as a Visa Waiver overstay and the need to obtain a visa for any future visits to the U.S. This additional discretion will give CBP more control in the field to parole those who pose no risk for terrorism, criminality, or those who will become economic migrants.
Commissioner Bonner cited "the extensive training, dedication and professionalism of CBP officers and their supervisors in the field" as a reason to place more authority in their hands. "I am confident that we can rely on the good judgment of our frontline officers and their supervisors to do what is legal, fair, and necessary to protect the United Sates. We will continue to exercise our discretion to deny entry to anyone who poses a potential terrorist risk or whose purpose for entering appears to be inconsistent with the purposes for visiting permitted by his visa or the Visa Waiver Program. Travelers whose intent is to violate our laws are the individuals that CBP will concentrate on," Bonner said.
Commissioner Bonner's memorandum to the field stated that CBP's failure to admit certain visitors without formal approval "is causing and will continue to cause significant public detriment to the United States" and that "under the limited circumstances such disproportionately harsh treatment warrants a modification of CBP policy. I have concluded that there is an urgent humanitarian reason and a significant public benefit in granting parole where an individual seeking admission under the Visa Waiver Program poses no risk whatsoever."
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control, and protection of our Nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.