Among the issues awaiting Secretary of State Clinton on her trip to Latin America is U.S. immigration policy and combating narco-trafficking.
The Secretary could advance both issues while simultaneously stressing the Obama administration’s commitment to the Western Hemisphere by offering the prospect of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) membership to qualified Latin American countries. Currently, no country from the region is on the VWP list. (Argentina and Uruguay had been part of the VWP but were removed from the program in 2002 and 2003, respectively). This absence of our neighbors to the south is something that can and should be remedied.
Most countries in the region cannot be part of the VWP in the short term because they lack the infrastructure (and sometimes the will) to meet the requisite security and law enforcement standards. Specifically, to achieve and maintain VWP eligibility, countries must continually demonstrate strong document security standards, effective border security procedures and immigration controls, and excellent counterterrorism and law enforcement cooperation with the United States.
Several Latin American nations could be viable VWP candidates according to the above criteria and should be offered the prospect of program membership as an incentive to continue to upgrade their security and law enforcement capabilities and collaboration with the United States. In addition to the security and law enforcement benefits, doing so would pay public diplomacy dividends, enhance economic investment and build relationships with key international partners.