The Tragicomedy of Immigration Politics: Of Fiancé Visas and the Visa Waiver Program

Poor President Obama. In his Sunday night speech to the nation, he made a mistake that confused anyone who had been watching the news closely. As Obama outlined the steps necessary to avoid tragedies like the San Bernardino killings, he indicated that he had ordered a review of the “visa waiver” program under which the female shooter arrived in this country.

The president’s error, as most of us know by now, is that he should have referred instead to the “fiancé visa” program—the female terrorist’s actual pathway to the United States. The White House was quick to correct Obama’s mistake, but the president’s fumble was understandable. Including a review of fiancé visas among our government’s pillars in the fight against ISIS is like ordering tear droppers to extinguish forest fires. His speechwriters should never have included it.

The fiancé visa program has been heavily reported on since we learned that shooter Tashfeen Malik entered the United States as the fiancée of her male counterpart, Syed Farook. But the press has correctly emphasized that fiancé visas account for only a tiny fraction of visas issued by the State Department. Moreover, applicants for fiancé visas are more closely scrutinized than many other categories of visa holders.

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