Speaker's Weekly Address
March 22, 2012

Homeland Security Responds to the Chinese Visa Waiver Program

Granting parole status for Chinese bound travelers to Guam is a noteworthy pursuit that if granted, will bolster our stagnant economy through tourism related activities.

More tourists mean more revenue and jobs for our people.

Through the efforts of the Guam Legislature and Governor Calvo and his team, the groundwork has been laid and significant progress has been made. We've seen this with the recent granting of the Russia-visa waiver program.

In January, I wrote a letter to President Obama, urging him to expand the Guam- CNMI Visa Waver Program to include China as well as to include Guam in the Global Entry Program.

The President had just announced his proposal to increase tourist bound Chinese to the United States as part of his initiative to promote the U.S. as a tourist destination. Last Friday, I received a response to my letter from the Department of Homeland Security that I would like to share with you.

It reads:

"Dear Dr. Won Pat:

We appreciate the information you have provided on Guam's economy and the potential boost to the tourism industry that additional travelers would provide.  DHS will continue to review circumstances in Guam relating to the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program.

DHS continues to closely review the circumstances in Guam, as related to the visa waiver program and has separately considered the issue of visa-free travel for Chinese and Russian visitors to Guam.

At this time Secretary Napolitano has decided not to exercise parole authority for travel to Guam by nationals of China.  There is a continuing review of China's participation for travel to Guam and we appreciate your interest in the Visa Waiver Program."   

Respectfully, Betsy Marky, 
Assistant Secretary, 
Department of Homeland Security.

Although this is not encouraging news, Secretary Napolitano has not shut the door entirely. Nothing can be more certain--We must press on and use all means necessary to convince federal officials that Guam deserves this. The Legislature will continue to foster open and frank dialogue with federal officials.

But there is good news. DHS is taking steps to increase domestic enrollment in trusted traveler programs, which currently has over 1.2 million members. And Guam could benefit from this because DHS Customs and Border Protection is preparing to announce the initial expansion of the program at four additional airport locations and they arereviewing whether to include the A.B. Won Pat International Airport in the next phase of Global Entry expansion locations.

If our airport is chosen, it will open up travel to families with children and will expand the number of airports with Global Entry kiosks from 20 to 37 in time for the 2012 summer travel season.

Furthermore, DHS plans to implement the APEC Business Travel Card through Global Entry to provide expedited travel in the Asia-Pacific region for qualified American travelers.

This is good news and I will continue to follow this as it develops.

So there you have it--a brief synopsis in our ongoing efforts to expand the Guam-CNMI visa waiver program to include China. I invite you to call me to discuss the visa-waiver program or other concerns that you may have. I would like to hear from you. My office number is 472-3586.

Saina Ma'ase.