CONGRESSMAN UNDERWOOD CALLS FOR SUSPENSION OF

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CONGRESSMAN ROBERT A. UNDERWOOD Delegate from Guam U.S. House of Representatives Washington, D.C.

NEWS RELEASE October 18, 2000

GUAM-ONLY VISA WAIVER FOR MYANMAR (BURMA)

With growing numbers of aliens from Myanmar landing in Guam and asking for political asylum, Congressman Robert A. Underwood today urged U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno to suspend Myanmar from the Guam-only Visa Waiver program.

"I remain deeply concerned by the current situation and, therefore, am requesting the immediate suspension of Myanmar from the Guam Visa Waiver Program pending the process of delisting," the Congressman wrote in a letter to Reno.

"On October 3, 2000, Guam's Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) office reported to my District Office that 48 Myanmar aliens requested political asylum prior to being admitted to the island since January 1, 2000," the Congressman wrote. "My District Office was also notified that the INS Asylum Office in Los Angeles received 119 applications for political asylum from Myanmar aliens on Guam since January 1, 2000."

Congressman Underwood also expressed concerned about a purported report that the BBC World Service had named Guam as a convenient U.S. destination to claim asylum. "Although the BBC reports are unconfirmed, reports such as this may encourage more aliens to utilize the Guam Visa Waiver Program for political asylum purposes," Underwood wrote. The visa waiver program, established in 1986, was intended to help boost Guam’s tourism industry and economy as a whole.

"I understand from State Department officials that the visa denial rate for Myanmar is now over 40 percent, which is way over the 17 percent threshold required for the Guam-only visa waiver," the Congressman said earlier today. "I believe that if we don’t take care of the Guam-only visa waiver program in a good way, in a very careful way, that the whole program may be threatened."

Congressman Underwood will meet with State and Interior Department officials again on Thursday for a full briefing on the Myanmar situation and what may be prompting the flight to Guam. The Congressman also intends to discuss the process for permanently removing Myanmar from countries approved for the Guam-only Visa Waiver Program. Currently, there are 16 countries, including Myanmar, approved for the program.

For additional information, contact: Cathy Gault at 671-477-4272

Washington office: 2418 Rayburn Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515 Tel: 202-225-1188 Fax: 202-226-0341  Email: guamtodc@mail.house.gov 

Guam office: 120 Fr. Duenas Ave., Ste 107 Hagatna, GU 96932 Tel: 671-477-4272 Fax: 671-477-2587

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