The Trump administration’s new attorney general has opposed the Obama-era program that allows Russian tourists to enter Guam, and for Chinese and Russian tourists to visit the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, without the vetting required for U.S. travel visa applicants.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, then chairman of the Senate subcommittee on immigration and national interest, wrote to the Department of Homeland Security in 2015 questioning why Homeland used its “parole authority” to allow the visa-free entry of Russian and Chinese tourists.

Sessions wrote that the visa-waiver program “clearly violates the prohibition” on using Homeland’s parole authority.

Visa applicants who want to enter the United States face stringent scrutiny at U.S. embassies and are required to show proof they have money to be tourists or short-term business visitors and that they have strong family and economic ties to return to their home countries after visiting the United States.

A former senator of Alabama for two decades, Sessions wrote, in part: “The Russian and Chinese tourist parole programs in Guam and the CNMI circumvent the regime Congress established expressly for visa-free travel to Guam and the CNMI.”

Unlike the visa waiver program for Russian and Chinese tourists bound for the CNMI, Guam’s visa waiver program allows for visa-free entry of Russians, but not Chinese tourists.

Guam’s visitor industry had spent years, and money on lobbyists, as it tried for years to ask for the visa waiver for Guam to be expanded for the mainland Chinese tourists. 

The Guam Visitors Bureau had established a goal of raising the annual tourist arrivals total from 1.5 million now to 2 million by 2020, based in large part on optimism for visa-free travel by Chinese tourists.

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