New screening rules announced for some refugees

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The refugee ban has been lifted in a new order from the White House. But as Chuck Goudie and the I-Team report, refugees from 11 nations will now face additional vetting. (WLS)

An ABC7 I-Team Investigation
On the same day that President Donald Trump's four-month worldwide ban on refugees ended, White House officials have just announced tougher new screening procedures for people from certain terror-prone nations.

The executive order signed late Tuesday calls for enhanced vetting for refugees coming from certain unnamed countries. Eleven nations have been targeted by the Trump administration, according to Department of Homeland Security officials.

After the four-month review, the administration determined that an additional 90-day review on those 11 countries was needed. Those countries are not being identified because of "law enforcement sensitivities," according to a DHS official on a background call.

However, individuals from those 11 counties will be considered on a case-by-case basis for resettlement, only if they are determined to be in the "U.S. national interest" and don't pose a security threat. That same criteria is not needed for other applicants.

Tuesday's White House directive refers only to eight nations identified in September as having deficiencies in their travel screening processes. It is likely those eight are on the new enhanced screen list. They are North Korea, Syria, Chad, Iran, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and Venezuela.

The new executive order replaces one that Trump signed earlier this year which had temporarily halted admissions for refugees from all countries, with only a few exceptions.

Now certain refugees seeking entry to the U.S. will face what officials described as more stringent and thorough examination of their backgrounds, in line with Trump's "extreme vetting" policy for immigrants.

The Homeland Security Department, the State Department and other U.S. agencies have been reviewing the screening process during the temporary ban. Specific vetting measures have not been outlined but in the past homeland security officials have spoken about examining applicants' social media posts and other investigative measures to identify those who may sympathize with extremists or pose a national security risk.

Refugees already face an extensive backlog and waiting periods that can take years. Additional screening is likely extend the timeline.

Even with the total ban lifted, refugee admissions are expected to be far lower than in recent years. In September Mr. Trump capped refugee admissions at 45,000 for the fiscal year that started Oct. 1, a cut of more than half from the 110,000 limit put in place by President Barack Obama.

The I-Team has reported that Illinois currently ranks 10th nationally in the number of refugees resettled, with 3,125 permitted residency here in 2016.

WHITE HOUSE EXECUTIVE ORDER:

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 24, 2017

EXECUTIVE ORDER

- - - - - - -

RESUMING THE UNITED STATES REFUGEE ADMISSIONS PROGRAM WITH ENHANCED VETTING CAPABILITIES

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. 1101 et seq., and section 301 of title 3, United States Code, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. (a) It is the policy of the United States to protect its people from terrorist attacks and other public-safety threats. Screening and vetting procedures associated with determining which foreign nationals may enter the United States, including through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), play a critical role in implementing that policy. Those procedures enhance our ability to detect foreign nationals who might commit, aid, or support acts of terrorism, or otherwise pose a threat to the national security or public safety of the United States, and they bolster our efforts to prevent such individuals from entering the country.

(b) Section 5 of Executive Order 13780 of March 6, 2017 (Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States), directed the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Director of National Intelligence to develop a uniform baseline for screening and vetting standards and procedures applicable to all travelers who seek to enter the United States. A working group was established to satisfy this directive.

(c) Section 6(a) of Executive Order 13780 directed a review to strengthen the vetting process for the USRAP. It also instructed the Secretary of State to suspend the travel of refugees into the United States under that program, and the Secretary of Homeland Security to suspend decisions on applications for refugee status, subject to certain exceptions. Section 6(a) also required the Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Secretary of Homeland Security and in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, to conduct a 120-day review of the USRAP application and adjudication process in order to determine, and implement, additional procedures to ensure that individuals seeking admission as refugees do not pose a threat to the security and welfare of the United States. Executive Order 13780 noted that terrorist groups have sought to infiltrate several nations through refugee programs and that the Attorney General had reported that more than 300 persons who had entered the United States as refugees were then the subjects of counterterrorism investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

(d) The Secretary of State convened a working group to implement the review process under section 6(a) of Executive Order 13780. This review was informed by the development of uniform baseline screening and vetting standards and procedures for all travelers under section 5 of Executive Order 13780. The section 6(a) working group compared the process for screening and vetting refugees with the uniform baseline standards and procedures established by the section 5 working group. The section 6(a) working group identified several ways to enhance the process for screening and vetting refugees and began implementing those improvements.

(e) The review process for refugees required by Executive Order 13780 has made our Nation safer. The improvements the section 6(a) working group has identified will strengthen the data-collection process for all refugee applicants considered for resettlement in the United States. They will also bolster the process for interviewing refugees through improved training, fraud-detection procedures, and interagency information sharing. Further, they will enhance the ability of our systems to check biometric and biographic information against a broad range of threat information contained in various Federal watchlists and databases.

(f) Section 2 of Proclamation 9645 of September 24, 2017 (Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats), suspended and limited, subject to exceptions and case-by-case waivers, the entry into the United States of foreign nationals of eight countries. As noted in that Proclamation, those suspensions and limitations are in the interest of the United States because of certain deficiencies in those countries' identity-management and information-sharing protocols and procedures, and because of the national security and public-safety risks that emanate from their territory, including risks that result from the significant presence of terrorists within the territory of several of those countries.

(g) The entry restrictions and limitations in Proclamation 9645 apply to the immigrant and nonimmigrant visa application and adjudication processes, which foreign nationals use to seek authorization to travel to the United States and apply for admission. Pursuant to section 3(b)(iii) of Proclamation 9645, however, those restrictions and limitations do not apply to those who seek to enter the United States through the USRAP.

(h) Foreign nationals who seek to enter the United States with an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa stand in a different position from that of refugees who are considered for entry into this country under the USRAP. For a variety of reasons, including substantive differences in the risk factors presented by the refugee population and in the quality of information available to screen and vet refugees, the refugee screening and vetting process is different from the process that applies to most visa applicants. At the same time, the entry of certain refugees into the United States through the USRAP poses unique security risks and considerable domestic challenges that require the application of substantial resources.

Sec. 2. Resumption of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. (a) Section 6(a) of Executive Order 13780 provided for a temporary, 120-day review of the USRAP application and adjudication process and an accompanying worldwide suspension of refugee travel to the United States and of application decisions under the USRAP. That 120-day period expires on October 24, 2017. Section 6(a) further provided that refugee travel and application decisions could resume after 120 days for stateless persons and for the nationals of countries for which the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Director of National Intelligence jointly determine that the additional procedures identified through the USRAP review process are adequate to ensure the security and welfare of the United States. The Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Director of National Intelligence have advised that the improvements to the USRAP vetting process are generally adequate to ensure the security and welfare of the United States, that the Secretary of State and Secretary of Homeland Security may resume that program, and that they will apply special measures to certain categories of refugees whose entry continues to pose potential threats to the security and welfare of the United States.

(b) With the improvements identified by the section 6(a) working group and implemented by the participating agencies, the refugee screening and vetting process generally meets the uniform baseline for immigration screening and vetting established by the section 5 working group. Accordingly, a general resumption of the USRAP, subject to the conditions set forth in section 3 of this order, is consistent with the security and welfare of the United States.

(c) The suspension of the USRAP and other processes specified in section 6(a) of Executive Order 13780 are no longer in effect. Subject to the conditions set forth in section 3 of this order, the Secretary of State may resume travel of qualified and appropriately vetted refugees into the United States, and the Secretary of Homeland Security may resume adjudicating applications for refugee resettlement.

Sec. 3. Addressing the Risks Presented by Certain Categories of Refugees. (a) Based on the considerations outlined above, including the special measures referred to in subsection (a) of section 2 of this order, Presidential action to suspend the entry of refugees under the USRAP is not needed at this time to protect the security and interests of the United States and its people. The Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security, however, shall continue to assess and address any risks posed by particular refugees as follows:

(i) The Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall coordinate to assess any risks to the security and welfare of the United States that may be presented by the entry into the United States through the USRAP of stateless persons and foreign nationals. Under section 207(c) and applicable portions of section 212(a) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1157(c) and 1182(a), section 402(4) of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, 6 U.S.C. 202(4), and other applicable authorities, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall determine, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, whether any actions should be taken to address the risks to the security and welfare of the United States presented by permitting any category of refugees to enter this country, and, if so, what those actions should be. The Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall administer the USRAP consistent with those determinations, and in consultation with the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence.

(ii) Within 90 days of the date of this order and annually thereafter, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, shall determine, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, whether any actions taken to address the risks to the security and welfare of the United States presented by permitting any category of refugees to enter this country should be modified or terminated, and, if so, what those modifications or terminations should be. If the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, determines, at any time, that any actions taken pursuant to section 3(a)(i) should be modified or terminated, the Secretary of Homeland Security may modify or terminate those actions accordingly. The Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State shall administer the USRAP consistent with the determinations made under this subsection, and in consultation with the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence.

(b) Within 180 days of the date of this order, the Attorney General shall, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security, and in cooperation with the heads of other executive departments and agencies as he deems appropriate, provide a report to the President on the effect of refugee resettlement in the United States on the national security, public safety, and general welfare of the United States. The report shall include any recommendations the Attorney General deems necessary to advance those interests.

Sec. 4. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

DONALD J. TRUMP
THE WHITE HOUSE,
October 24, 2017.


DHS STATEMENT

IMPROVED SECURITY PROCEDURES FOR REFUGEES ENTERING THE UNITED STATES
New measures announced by the White House will raise the bar for national security, plug potential security gaps

WASHINGTON - Today, President Donald J. Trump announced the implementation of improved security procedures for refugees entering the United States. These new measures are part of the administration's effort to raise national security standards for all persons traveling to the United States, and they are designed to intensify screening in order to keep nefarious and fraudulent actors from exploiting the refugee process to enter the United States. The measures come at the end of a 120-day "pause" on refugee resettlement, while the United States government conducted a thorough review of the existing program.

"The security of the American people is this administration's highest priority, and these improved vetting measures are essential for American security," said Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke. "These new, standardized screening measures provide an opportunity for the United States to welcome those in need into our country, while ensuring a safer, more secure homeland."

In accordance with section 6(a) of Executive Order 13780, the United States government, including the Departments of State (State) and Homeland Security (DHS), in consultation with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), conducted a review of the United States Refugee Admissions Program application and adjudication process. The goal of this review was to determine what additional procedures should be used to ensure that individuals seeking admission as refugees do not pose a threat to the security and welfare of the United States.

As a result of this review, the United States government is implementing program enhancements to raise the bar for vetting and screening procedures, including but not limited to: increased data collection to more thoroughly investigate applicants, better information sharing between agencies to identify threat actors, and new training procedures to strengthen screener ability to detect fraud and deception.

These measures are an additional layer of security for the American people and are based in part on evaluated intelligence and identified gaps in screening and vetting operations. Following the implementation of these improved measures, the administration will recommence refugee resettlement processing.

While DHS, State, and ODNI have jointly determined that the new measures are adequate to resume refugee admissions, they have also concluded that additional in-depth review is needed with respect to refugees from 11 countries previously identified as posing a higher risk to the United States. Consequently, admissions for applicants from those 11 high-risk countries will move forward on a case-by-case basis during an additional 90-day review period, consistent with our national security interests. As DHS, State and DNI complete individual country reviews, they may resume a standard admissions process for applicants from those countries.

The United States government will continue to work closely with law enforcement and the intelligence community, and these enhancements will be evaluated on an ongoing basis to determine whether any further measures are needed to safeguard our homeland.

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