LatinNews Daily - 26 June 2023

Chile urges US to maintain visa waiver programme

Chile: On 23 June, Chile’s Foreign Minister Alberto van Klaveren met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington D.C. to review relations between the two countries. Among other things, Van Klaveren said they discussed the visa waiver programme (VWP), which allows individuals from Chile to enter the US for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa and which has been the subject of some dispute in recent weeks, with members of the US House of Representatives claiming the programme is being exploited by criminals. Van Klaveren stated he had expressed to Blinken “our strong interest in maintaining this programme”. This comes the day after Chile’s ambassador to the US Juan Gabriel Valdés tweeted that technical teams from Chile’s foreign ministry, interior ministry, and civil registry had advanced “with full consensus” in talks with the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) about the VWP. In particular, the teams discussed standards and mechanisms to ensure the efficient exchange of information pertaining to the criminal records of applicants. Valdés stated that “we hope that the consensus will lead to an outcome that fully satisfies both parties”, noting that funding for the programme was dependent on the completion of the talks and the agreement reached. On 16 June, the speaker of the US House of Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) threatened to use congressional appropriations to suspend funding for the VWP. Speaking at a news conference at the District Attorney’s Office in Santa Ana, California, McCarthy blamed the VWP for rising criminal activity in the US, stating that “Chile doesn’t allow us to conduct criminal background checks for anyone coming into America on the Visa Waiver Program.” Similarly, on 15 June, Representatives Mike Levin (D-CA) and Lou Correa (D-CA) wrote a letter to Valdés expressing “deep concerns” as to whether Chile was “meeting the information-sharing requirements for participation in the VWP”. The representatives stated that home burglaries across the US and especially in southern California committed by individuals entering the US under the VWP have been “dramatically increasing”.

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