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Local government and Polish officials encourage Federal passage of Visa Waiver Program Enhanced Security and Reform Act,
The majority (65%) of the 17 million overseas tourists who came into the United States in 2010 entered via the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). They spent $61 billion. Poland is not included on the list of 36 countries whose passport holders were allowed into this country as tourism or business visitors for 90 days or less.
New legislation which enhances security measures while adding new countries, the Waiver Program Enhanced Security and Reform Act, introduced in the Senate by Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) and in the House by Representatives Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Steve Chabot (R-Ohio)
In an effort to encourage passage of the Act, a gathering of local officials met at the Polish Museum of America, Sun., Feb. 12. They included: Consul General of the Republic of Poland in Chicago, National President of the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America (PRCUA), President of Polish American Congress Frank Spula, Aldermen Robert Fioretti (2nd), Ricardo Munoz (22nd), Michael Zalewski (23rd), Ariel Reboyras (30th), Scott Waguespack (32nd), Nicholas Sposato (36th), John Arena (45th) and Joe Moore, (49th). Moore chairs the city council committee that will put this recommendation of support before the City Council at their March meeting.
"We would like to see the people from the Polish community come out and testify and make sure that their voices are heard in making sure this goes forward in congress," urged Waguespack.
About adding Poland to the list, Moore said, "It is in the interest of all Americans regardless of their ethnicity. The more you foster and encourage cultural exchange and people come to our nation and learn about our customs and traditions, the more we learn about theirs, breaking down the walls of misunderstanding and building commonality."
Other speakers stressed that adding Poland to the list of countries is a meaningful step for Poles, the U.S. and Chicago. Furthermore, Poland is one of the few countries not having economic distress at the moment. Since Chicago has a population second only to Warsaw, this addition should bring more dollars to this area.
Questioning from the audience included whether allowing Poland in as a new country would introduce the possibility that Poles would come in on the visa and then stay illegally for purposes of working as well as whether there was any heightened security risk to allowing in Poles. Responses focused on the fact that since Poland's economy is better than the U.S.'s, the likelihood of illegal workers was not great. Regarding Poles being an extra security risk, several people indicated that that too was highly unlikely.
The U.S. Travel Association endorsed the new Reform Act last week. "Expanding the Visa Waiver Program benefits our economy and creates U.S. jobs," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the association.
Nationals of VWP countries must meet eligibility requirements to travel without a visa on VWP, and therefore, some travelers from VWP countries are not eligible to use the program. VWP eligible travelers may apply for a visa, if they prefer to do so. VWP travelers are required to have a valid authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to travel, are screened at the port of entry into the United States, and are enrolled in the Department of Homeland Security's US-VISIT program.
*Pictured l to r : Joseph Drobot, Jr, Joe Moore, Robert Fioretti, Ariel Reboyras, Ricardo Munoz, John Arena, Scott Waguespack and Nicholas Sposato.
**Pictured l to r: Mark Dobrzycki, Mark Kupiec, Robert Groszek and son, Robert Fioretti, Bogdan Pukszta, Joe Moore, Jan Lorys, Tom Startek, Paul Koleak, John Arena, Frank Spula, Joseph A. Drobot, Jr, representative with Polish America Chamber Commerce and Scott Waguespack.