President Trump will suspend issuance of visas to immigrants if we can’t thoroughly screen them. This seems like a reasonable demand. It is not clear what Trump wants to add to our current vetting process. I think this measure is more concerned with refugees. Here is what Trump said on June 13th, 2016 in a speech on terrorism and immigration: “There is “no system to vet” refugees from the Middle East.”
Here is our current vetting process for refugees:
The Screening Process for Refugee Entry Into the United States
Recurrent vetting: Throughout this process, pending applications continue to be checked against terrorist databases, to ensure new, relevant terrorism information has not come to light. If a match is found, that case is paused for further review. Applicants who continue to have no flags continue the process. If there is doubt about whether an applicant poses a security risk, they will not be admitted.
1. Many refugee applicants identify themselves to the U.N. Refugee Agency, UNHCR. UNHCR, then:
o Collects identifying documents
o Performs initial assessment
Collects biodata: name, address, birthday, place of birth, etc.
Collects biometrics: iris scans (for Syrians, and other refugee populations in the Middle East)
o Interviews applicants to confirm refugee status and the need for resettlement
Initial information checked again
o Only applicants who are strong candidates for resettlement move forward (less than 1% of global refugee population).
2. Applicants are received by a federally-funded Resettlement Support Center (RSC):
o Collects identifying documents
o Creates an applicant file
o Compiles information to conduct biographic security checks
3. Biographic security checks start with enhanced interagency security checks
Refugees are subject to the highest level of security checks of any category of traveler to the United States.
o U.S. security agencies screen the candidate, including:
National Counterterrorism Center/Intelligence Community
Department of Homeland Security
o The screening looks for indicators, like:
Information that the individual is a security risk
Connections to known bad actors
Outstanding warrants/immigration or criminal violations
o DHS conducts an enhanced review of Syrian cases, which may be referred to USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate for review. Research that is used by the interviewing officer informs lines of question related to the applicant’s eligibility and credibility.
4. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/USCIS interview:
o Interviews are conducted by USCIS Officers specially trained for interviews
o Fingerprints are collected and submitted (biometric check)
o Re-interviews can be conducted if fingerprint results or new information raises questions. If new biographic information is identified by USCIS at an interview, additional security checks on the information are conducted. USCIS may place a case on hold to do additional research or investigation. Otherwise, the process continues.
5. Biometric security checks:
o Applicant’s fingerprints are taken by U.S. government employees
Fingerprints are screened against the FBI’s biometric database.
Fingerprints are screened against the DHS biometric database, containing watch-list information and previous immigration encounters in the U.S. and overseas.
Fingerprints are screened against the U.S. Department of Defense biometric database, which includes fingerprint records captured in Iraq and other locations.
o If not already halted, this is the end point for cases with security concerns. Otherwise, the process continues.
6. Medical check:
o The need for medical screening is determined
o This is the end point for cases denied due to medical reasons. Refugees may be provided medical treatment for communicable diseases such as tuberculosis.
7. Cultural orientation and assignment to domestic resettlement locations:
o Applicants complete cultural orientation classes.
o An assessment is made by a U.S.-based non-governmental organization to determine the best resettlement location for the candidate(s). Considerations include:
Family; candidates with family in a certain area may be placed in that area.
Health; a candidate with asthma may be matched to certain regions.
o A location is chosen.
o International Organization for Migration books travel
o Prior to entry in the United States, applicants are subject to:
Screening from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s National Targeting Center-Passenger
The Transportation Security Administration’s Secure Flight Program
o This is the end point for some applicants. Applicants who have no flags continue the process.
9. U.S. Arrival:
o All refugees are required to apply for a green card within a year of their arrival to the United States, which triggers:
Another set of security procedures with the U.S. government.
o Refugees are woven into the rich fabric of American society!
Notice that Trump’s measure number 8 is included in step 5 of the current vetting process. What is missing? What will make this process more robust?
Stopping Businesses from Hiring Undocumented Workers
One way to accomplish measure 9 is to require all employers to use the national e-verify system. The system is provided by the Department of Homeland Security and it is available online for free. All federal employees are required to use it, but private companies should be required to use the system as well.
Measure 10 seems vague, so I’m not sure what steps are necessary to carry out its requirements.
After assessing all of the points of Trump’s immigration plan we are left wondering if we have anything here that might significantly reduce the number of immigrants entering the country illegally.
What do you think?