First Legislation Related to Missing Plane Would Penalize Nations for Skipping Passport Checks
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 is still missing under unknown circumstances, yet Congress has already come up with responsive legislation.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y) today introduced the Transnational Regulation of Identity of Passports (TRIP) Act of 2014, which would remove countries from the U.S. visa waiver program if they don't begin checking passports against Interpol’s Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (SLTD) database within five years.
Only the United States, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates regularly check passports against the database, and only 20 of Interpol's 190 member nations even used the database in 2013.
Wielding a photo of the two Iranians who boarded the missing flight using stolen passports, Schumer told reporters Sunday "there is absolutely no reason why we shouldn't put pressure on other countries" to use the Interpol database.
"It is shocking to me that in the post-9/11 era, when we have seen how much damage just a few bad individuals can cause, that countries would choose not to ensure that the people who are flying in and out of their country are actually who they say they are," Schumer said.
Today, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) joined as a co-sponsor, stressing, "We don't know whether the two travelers on the missing Malaysian jet were the cause of its disappearance, but certainly they should have been stopped at the gate.”
“This simple, straightforward, system has the capacity to save lives and spare millions from worry. Whether air travelers are flying at home or abroad, they deserve the peace of mind that law enforcement is taking all necessary and available steps to ensure their safety and security," Blumenthal said in a statement. "This measure would effectively compel use of the data base of stolen or lost passports by denying temporary visas to citizens of any country that fails to do so."
Along with affecting visa waivers five years from passage, the TRIP Act would "deny tourist and business visas to citizens of any country that has not made progress in implementing infrastructure to screen passengers against the STLD database within ten years of passage."
Thirty-seven countries are currently within the program, which allows entry without a visa for up to 90 days. Malaysia is not included in the program.
"Any country refusing to use Interpol's data base of stolen or lost identity documents is inexcusably endangering our citizens as well as their own," Blumenthal said. "This law send a message to all countries: use the data base, or your citizens will be denied temporary visas to visit here. That's the kind of incentive sure to get them to screen travelers using stolen paper."