By: Michael Patrick Leahy
“It is not compassionate, but reckless, to allow uncontrolled entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur. Those given the high honor of admission to the United States should support this country and love its people and its values,” President Trump said in his speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday.
“That is why my administration has been working on improved vetting procedures, and we will shortly take new steps to keep our nation safe — and to keep out those who would do us harm,” the president promised.
President Trump is expected to reveal those new steps when he signs a new executive order on refugees and immigration on Thursday.
The signing was originally scheduled for Wednesday, but press reports indicate that the reaction to the president’s speech has been so positive, the White House chose to delay the signing so as to not step on its own positive message.
The executive order President Trump signed on January 27, 2017, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” dealt specifically with those issues, but implementation of that order was derailed when Federal Judge James Robart of the Western District of Washington issued a temporary restraining order on February 3, 2017 halting it nationwide.
Rather than engage in a lengthy court fight over the details of that executive order, President Trump has decided the fastest way to safeguard the country from foreign terrorist attacks is to sign a new executive order that has a higher likelihood of surviving the certain judicial challenges which will be brought against it by Democrats and their allies on
The president made two key points in his speech Tuesday that offer clues as to what his executive order may contain to improve vetting procedures.
(1) He opposes uncontrolled entry of foreign nationals into the United States …
(2) From places where proper vetting cannot occur. (emphasis added)
President Trump does not view controlled entry of foreign nationals from places where proper vetting occurs as the most important priority in protecting the nation from foreign terrorists.
The term “vetting” has been used most frequently in the press to refer to security background checks conducted on a particular type of permanent immigrant to the United States–those entering legally under the federal refugee resettlement program, authorized by the Refugee Act of 1980.
That act, as spelled out in subsequent regulations and procedures established by the departments charged with its implementation — The Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Health and Human Services — has established a series of protocols to be followed related to the security background and health of potential refugees allowed to enter the country.
Those protocols, though vigorously defended by the Obama administration, have been widely panned by critics of the program, as well as President Trump, as ineffective in ascertaining security risks posed by potential participants in the federal refugee resettlement program.
In addition, the current protocols for determining the health risk posed by potential participants in the federal refugee resettlement program have been demonstrated by numerous articles at Breitbart News as being ineffective at preventing the importation of a number of diseases into the United States, the most glaring example being active tuberculosis (TB).
Judge Robart’s temporary restraining order left standing several sections in President Trump’s January 27, 2017 executive order. In one section, President Trump limited the number of refugees who could arrive in the United States in FY 2017, which ends on September 30, to 50,000.
Robart did not attempt to stop that presidential directive, because every legal expert agrees the president can, on his own authority as defined in the Refugee Act of 1980, limit the number of refugees to any number — even zero. In FY 2016, under President Obama, 84,995 refugees entered the United States.
Two other sections left standing in Judge Robart’s temporary restraining order are specifically relevant to the executive order it is anticipated President Trump will sign on Thursday:
Sec. 3 (a) Suspension of Issuance of Visas and Other Immigration Benefits to Nationals of Countries of Particular Concern
The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, shall immediately conduct a review to determine the information needed from any country to adjudicate any visa, admission, or other benefit under the INA (adjudications) in order to determine that the individual seeking the benefit is who the individual claims to be and is not a security or public-safety threat.
Sec. 4 (a) Implementing Uniform Screening Standards for All Immigration Programs.
The Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation shall implement a program, as part of the adjudication process for immigration benefits, 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.
Sec. 3 (a) directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to determine “information needed from any country” concerning the potential “security or public-safety threat” of refugee applicants as well as visa applicants.
Sec. 4 (a) directs the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security to “implement a program … 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.”
These projects have been going on at both State and Homeland Security for over one month now.
What that means is the Trump administration has likely developed a significant list of objective standards in both security and public health that refugees and other immigrants must meet in order to be granted entry into the United States.
That list is likely to be included in the executive order and will be significantly more resistant to legal challenges.
A surprise to look for will be a number of detailed public health standards as well as security standards.
One possible new standard will be the implementation of a recommendation made recently by a number of scientists at the Centers for Disease Control that all refugee applicants be tested for latent TB, and that no refugee be allowed to enter the country if they test positive for latent TB, or have not successfully completed treatment for latent TB if they have tested positive for it.