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
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 judgement
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,"
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.