The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Immigration executive order undermines already thorough refugee vetting process

President Trump’s recent executive order has caused massive impacts both domestically and internationally. The administration’s actions have implications for us all, and we should feel obligated to truly understand the order which bars travelers from seven identified countries for 90 days, discontinues general refugee admissions for 120 days, reduces annual refugee resettlement by 50 percent, and bars Syrian refugees indefinitely.

The executive order states that the immigration ban was implemented to develop a “uniform screening standard and procedure,” which implies that the U.S. does not currently screen refugees and immigrants.

In contempt of the assumption that refugees are not properly vetted, the Unites States refugee resettlement program is actually a vigorous, multi-layer process that can take up to 24 months to complete. The Department of State already cites refugees as the most heavily vetted category of people admitted to the U.S. 

John Sandweg, former director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and general counsel to the Department of Homeland Security said he “struggles to see how the vetting system can be made much more thorough than it already is.” 

According to the White House archives, the refugee screening process begins with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) collecting biometrics and iris scans, compiling personal data, and confirming that applicants qualify as refugees. If a refugee is referred for resettlement in the U.S, the case is then screened by the National Counter Terrorism Center, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the State Department. 

Syrian refugees undergo an additional security step, referenced as the Syrian Review, through which the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate reviews cases and ensures that all information is properly verified and synthesized. 

Case information is then passed to Refugee Officers who are equipped with rigorous, specialized training. Refugee Officers travel to refugee camps where they conduct in-person interviews with each applicant in order to cross reference case information with interview responses.

At this stage in the process, U.S. government employees recollect applicant fingerprints. The biometrics are then screened against FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Defense databases. If applicants clear all of the security checks, they then begin a series of medical exams, cultural orientation courses, recurrent security checks, and green card applications. 

Even through this simplified summarization of the refugee vetting system, it is clear to see that the U.S. already has a “uniform screening” process that sets the standard for the rest of the world. 

It is impossible to disregard and discredit the integrity of the system that is already in place to ensure that U.S. borders are protected from foreign fighters. Shutting down the immigration program will only cause chaos. 

If experts determine the immigration system requires additional security measures for specific travelers, they should be implemented without completely halting and compromising the current system. 

Many arguments supporting President Trump’s travel ban reference how, through the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, the Obama administration actually identified the seven countries cited in the executive order. This is true; however, Obama’s policy was in no way congruent with the impacts of the current executive order. 

The visa waiver program allows visitors who are staying in the U.S. for 90 days or less to complete an online application called Electronic Authorization for Travel Authorization in lieu of applying for a visa. 

In order to respect national security concerns yet still facilitate travel to the U.S., the Obama administration implemented the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act which adapted the visa waiver program to disqualify citizens or recent visitors of the seven identified countries from using the visa waiver program. Instead, these individuals had to go to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate and complete an interview and application process in order to receive a travel visa. 

Obama’s change of the visa waiver program is an excellent example of how adaptions to immigration and travel policies can be made in order to protect American citizens without shutting our borders to an entire class of people. 

As a former Department of State intern at the U.S. Consulate General in Milan, Italy, I worked in the visa section and helped facilitate the changes to the visa waiver program. 

I witnessed Foreign Service Officers expertly interview applicants and determine the legitimacy of their travel to the U.S. I witnessed many people be rejected and barred from the U.S. due to legitimate security concerns, and I also witnessed applicants pass the security checks and receive U.S. visas. 

By disregarding the strength of the refugee vetting process and completely crippling the immigration system, the Trump administration has caused international pandemonium. 

The uninformed, selective closure of U.S borders will do more to subvert advancements in national security and foreign policy than it will to protect the American people. 

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The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University
Immigration executive order undermines already thorough refugee vetting process