The AHEPAN - Winter/Spring 2010 - 9
raising awareness: importance of VWp expansion
AHEPA hosted a public policy forum titled, “Visa Waiver Program: 2007 A Year for Expansion?” on January 19, 2007 that featured policy experts from Congress, Homeland Security, State Department, the European Union, and think-tanks who examined the possibilities of VWP expansion in 2007. (L-R): Then-Supreme President Gus James, Daniel Griswold, director, Center for Trade Policy Studies, Cato Institute; then-Homeland Security Deputy Assistant Secretary Nathan Sales, Ambassador Angelos Pangratis, then-deputy dead of Delegation for the European Commission in Washington; Jeannie Siskovic, former legislative assistant for Sen. Voinovich; Andrew Kaffes, consultant; Former Deputy Director of the Office of Southern European Affairs at Department of State Baxter Hunt, and Former AHEPA Director of Communications Michael Zachariades.
AHEPA’s historical role as a reliable bridge between the United States and Greece for eight decades positioned AHEPA as a credible champion on the issue. Upon his return to the United States, then-Supreme President James made Greece’s candidacy a priority to AHEPA family members and the entire community.
ahepa’s Work on the VWp issue
Since the fall of 2006, AHEPA worked diligently on the VWP issue by creating awareness of it to key audiences in Washington. AHEPA’s actions included: • Holding AHEPA’s first of many face-to-face meetings with the Department of Homeland Security in September 2006. • Working with our champions in Congress, comprising mostly of Hellenic Caucus members, to position Greece to the Bush Administration as a leading candidate for inclusion. This included the introduction of legislation designating Greece a VWP nation by Hellenic Caucus
Co-Chair U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), which was supported by fellow Caucus Co-Chair U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL); and members of Congress sending letters of support to administration officials. • Hosting a public policy forum in January 2007 on Capitol Hill to raise the visibility of the importance of expanding the Visa Waiver Program for all countries who qualify. • Outreaching to build coalitions with major travel industry trade associations that supported expansion of the VWP. In 2007 Congress passed S.4, Improving America’s Security Act of 2007 in August. The bill included a provision in Title V, Section 501 authored by Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH), an Ahepan, which enhanced and strengthened the security measures of the VWP. As a result of all these measures, Greece became the only nation to be formally nominated by the Department of State in September 2007. The nomination allowed the Department of Homeland Security to begin the evaluation process.
hellenic caucus mobilizes congress
Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Gus M. Bilirakis introduced legislation and circulated letters to their colleagues over two sessions of Congress that championed Greece’s candidacy for VWP designation to administration officials.
Strengthening VWp Security criteria
U.S. Sen. George V. Voinovich’s (R-OH) provisions that strengthened VWP criteria and enhanced security measures to fight terrorism that passed as part of a larger security bill enabled policymakers in Washington to be more comfortable with the notion of VWP expansion.