ICE Plans More Visa Security Units
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently announced (PDF) that the agency plans to expand its visa security units from 12 countries to 16 this year and an additional country next year. ICE works with the Department of State to identify high-risk posts to receive visa security units. The program, intended to maximize the visa process as a counterterrorism tool, assigns experienced special agents to visa security units overseas to review visa applications, initiate investigations, and provide advice and training to consular officers.
The list of countries to be added has not been announced, but the Department of Homeland Security separately has identified 14 nations whose citizens underwent mandatory secondary screening for a temporary period after the Christmas Day bombing attempt: Afghanistan, Algeria, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Currently, ICE has visa security units in Canada, Egypt, Germany, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) and Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) introduced companion bills on March 4, 2010, in the House and Senate to fund 16 visa security units in high-risk nations, including Algeria, Colombia, India, Iraq, Jerusalem, Kuala Lumpur, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa, Syria, Tel Aviv, Turkey, United Kingdom, and Yemen.