Special to WorldTribune.com
Belgian terrorists could easily slip into the United States with minimal security checks, a U.S. lawmaker said.
Rep. Ron DeSantis, Florida Republican and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told the Washington Free Beacon on March 22 that the Obama administration has not changed the current visa waiver program despite warnings from Congress that Belgium is a terror hotspot.
Under the visa waiver program, Belgium is considered a partner nation and its citizens can enter the U.S. with minimal background checks, meaning radicalized Muslims can legally travel to the U.S. at will, DeSantis said.
“The visa waiver reform, this is something we have been perusing and the (Obama) administration has brushed us off at every turn,” DeSantis said.
Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) carried out bombings at the main airport and a metro station in Brussels on March 22 in which at least 34 people were killed and 200 more wounded.
DeSantis said he and other lawmakers first raised the warning after the ISIL attacks in Paris in November. Several of the Paris attackers were members of a terror cell based in the Molenbeek section of Brussels, a breeding ground for terrorists.
“At least six of the Paris attackers could have attempted to enter the country,” under the visa program, DeSantis warned in congressional testimony in December.
DeSantis described Molenbeek as “a hellhole that is filled with Belgian national Islamic radicals who qualify to travel to the U.S. without a visa under the visa waiver program.”
The Obama administration “even takes the position it’s safer to allow someone to come in on a visa waiver than make them get one, it’s kind of crazy,” DeSantis said. “You’re not going to be able to have intelligence on everyone there because there are so many potential recruits. It’s a clear vulnerability.”
Additionally, DeSantis said, the administration has not been deporting those who overstay their visas, potentially allowing radicalized jihadists to disappear in America.
“There’s no enforcement once they get here. Hundreds of thousands of people come over and then overstay (their visas). You are not going to be removed under current policy under this administration.”
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on March 22 said Belgium remains part of the visa waiver program and no change has been made in the policy following the attacks.
“Though we do not require Belgian citizens to have a visa to travel here for business or tourism purposes, both the Transportation Security Administration and US Customs and Border Protection have procedures in place to identify and prevent travel here from Belgium by individuals of suspicion,” DHS secretary Jeh Johnson said in in a statement.