On Friday, January 27, President Trump signed an executive order (EO) regarding the admittance of individuals from certain countries that Congress previously identified as posing security risks to the United States. The executive order put in place a 90-day pause on the entry of individuals from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen to allow the Administration sufficient time to evaluate current vetting procedures and “to determine that the individual seeking the benefit is who the individual claims to be and is not a security or public-safety threat.”
This process was ordered to identify how assessment procedures can be improved to better ensure the safety and security of Americans. The problems discovered and the solutions prescribed will be applied in future to those seeking to immigrate from any and all countries in order “to identify individuals seeking to enter the United States on a fraudulent basis with the intent to cause harm, or who are at risk of causing harm subsequent to their admission.”
The EO also paused refugee resettlement for 120 days “to determine what additional procedures should be taken to ensure that those approved for refugee admission do not pose a threat to the security and welfare of the United States,” while capping the number of refugees admitted in FY2017 at 50,000.
The improvement in vetting procedures and the temporary suspension of refugee resettlement was an explicit promise made by President Trump during the campaign. By August 31, 2016, when he gave a major immigration policy speech in Phoenix, Arizona, President Trump had established a firm policy advocating for what he was to later refer to as “extreme vetting” to prevent potential terrorists from entering the United States.
Friday's executive order on refugees is not a Muslim ban. Major media outlets decided during the general election campaign to refer to President Trump’s position as a “Muslim ban” and continue to tout this falsehood, even though the EO affects individuals who seek to enter from a total of only seven countries, and makes no reference to any particular religion. The media is, for the most part, ignoring the fact that the countries referred to in the EO were designated “countries of concern” by Congress in a bill passed in 2015 and signed into law by President Obama. The Trump Administration cited this law as the basis for the EO it issued last week.
One of the contentions that the media has reported is that green card holders from the affected countries are forbidden from reentering the United States if they were abroad at the time the EO was issued. This is incorrect. Under the EO, an individual who is a green card holder from one of the countries listed will undergo heightened scrutiny to identify those who pose a risk. Legal permanent residents who have traveled overseas to train or fight with terrorist groups will not be allowed back into the United States. Those who are interviewed and determined by DHS to pose no risk will be waived into the country, as has already been demonstrated. It has been reported that of 109 individuals who were in transit to the United States from affected countries, as of Sunday, 81 have already been granted permission to reenter the country.
Temporarily suspending admissions from certain countries is not out of the ordinary. Most recently, President Obama in 2011 suspended all visas for individuals from Iraq for 6 months after two Iraqi interpreters with Special Immigrant Visas were arrested in Kentucky and charged with terrorist activity after their fingerprints were found on IEDs used against American troops.
On Sunday evening, the Department of Homeland Security released a statement acknowledging that it would comply with any federal court orders pertaining to the EO issued Friday, and that the agency is working to ensure that all affected individuals are “being provided all rights afforded under the law.” Specifically, DHS is trying to prevent those “who would not be granted entry under the executive orders from boarding international flights to the U.S. [so that]…[no] further individuals traveling by air to the United States will be affected.”
ERIC RUARK is NumbersUSA Director of Research
Updated: Sun, Feb 12th 2017 @ 11:10pm EST