US President Donald Trump on Tuesday allowed the resumption of refugee admissions into the US under new, stricter screening rules, but ordered nationals from 11 countries believed to pose higher risk to US national security to face even tougher scrutiny.
Officials refused to identify the 11 countries, but said refugee applications from those nations would be judged case by case.
Trump issued his new order on refugee screening as the administration’s four-month ban on refugee admissions expired. It directs federal agencies to resume refugee processing, which he clamped down on shortly after taking office.
The new “enhanced vetting” procedures for all refugees include such measures as collecting additional biographical and other information to better determine whether refugees are being truthful about their status; improving information sharing between agencies; stationing fraud detection officers at certain locations overseas; and training screeners to weed out fraud and deception.
Refugees already face an extensive backlog and waiting periods that can take years. Additional screening will likely lengthen the wait.
International Rescue Committee senior vice president of US programs Jennifer Sime said in advance of the announcement that she was concerned the new screening procedures would add months or even years to the most urgent refugee cases.
She said most of those cases involve women and children in “heinous circumstances who need the permanent and proven solution of resettlement.”
“With a world facing brutal and protracted conflicts like in Syria, or new levels of displacement and unimaginable violence against the Rohingya — this moment is a test of the world’s humanity, moral leadership and ability to learn from the horrors of the past,” she said.
Sime was referring to the mounting refugee crisis in Myanmar, where more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh to escape persecution by Burmese security forces.
Even with the refugee ban lifted, admissions are expected to be far lower than in recent years.
Trump last month capped refugee admissions at 45,000 for the year that started Oct. 1, a significant cut from the 110,000 limit put in place a year earlier by then-US president Barack Obama.
The actual number admitted this year could be less than 45,000, as the cap sets a maximum limit, not a minimum.
In a separate action on Tuesday, the US Supreme Court dismissed a case about the refugee ban.
An order from the justices wipes away a lower-court ruling that found problems with the refugee ban and with a temporary pause on visitors from six Muslim-majority countries.
A new travel policy that applies to six countries with Muslim majorities has already been blocked by lower courts.
The limits on refugees were in addition to Trump’s broader “travel ban” on people from several countries. Courts have repeatedly blocked that policy, but largely left the temporary refugee policy in place.
Trump has made limiting immigration a centerpiece of his administration’s efforts to safeguard US national security.
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