Chile runs out of Visa Waiver: U.S. House committee approves bill in wake of massive burglaries

Boris Ulloa
Photo byJhon Walker/AFP

The amendment seeks to block the use of resources to process entry through this program until Chile shares data on the criminal history of Chileans seeking to enter the country.

Last Wednesday, a U.S. House committee approved a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that includes eliminating money for Chile's visa waiver program.

The measure, which received 33 votes in favor and 25 votes against, includes a provision that prohibits the use of funds for the processing of the program for the entry of Chilean citizens until our government authorities share information on the criminal history of those citizens with the U.S. government.

The amendment was incorporated into the DHS budget proposal after Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy criticized Chile's visa waiver program in a speech last week in California.

According to McCarthy, a large number of Chileans entering the United States through this program are members of organized crime groups that rob residences and businesses in California.

The Republican stated that removing Chile from the program would give U.S. authorities the opportunity to check the criminal history of Chilean visitors before they enter the country.

Chile is the only nation in Latin America that participates in the U.S. visa waiver program, according to Chilean media outlet Diario Sur Noticias, but unlike other countries, Chilean authorities do not allow criminal background checks for travelers.

U.S. politicians from both parties have long expressed concern that criminal networks are taking advantage of this to target businesses in California and elsewhere.

Chile recorded the highest number of deportees in 2022 among participating nations, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The number of Chileans deported last year, according to the U.S. organization, was 553 in total, 119.4 percent more than in 2021.

A few days ago, Foreign Minister Alberto van Klaveren expressed concern that "a group of criminals" would jeopardize the nation's continued participation in the U.S. program as a result of these statistics.

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Hello, my name is Boris Ulloa, an international journalist living in New York.

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