President Donald Trump’s 120-day temporary ban on refugees is expiring. But starting Wednesday, the administration is moving ahead with stricter screening procedures for all those seeking to come to the United States. It will also delay processing for an additional 11 “high-risk” countries, reports Reuters.
The details of the new vetting procedures are still a bit murky, but reports suggest that the Trump administration will require refugees to provide more extensive biographical details, including phone, email, and address, for all places they’ve lived going as far back as a decade — nearly double the amount of time required now. The administration is also likely to conduct more stringent screening of social-media activities, and to collect contact information for all family members of all refugee applicants. Previously, according to Reuters, information was just collected for relatives with ties to the United States.
The Wall Street Journal also reports that at least 11 “high-risk” countries will face additional scrutiny over the next 90 days — which will significantly slow down, if not effectively halt, the application process for some refugees. Which 11 countries are on that list hasn’t been officially announced yet, but it’s likely to include those countries whose refugees already face more aggressive screening from multiple federal agencies, known as Security Advisory Opinion. It appears that agencies that process applicants abroad can’t request SAOs until the administration issues new guidelines. Officials told the Wall Street Journal that technically refugees from these countries could still be accepted during this period, but practically, it doesn’t sound all that likely. “We’re not saying no one but it will be less,” one official said. Right now, refugees who apply from countries including Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, North Korea, Mali, and Sudan must undergo SAO, so expect those countries to appear on this list of 11.
The new rules will cover new refugee applicants and those already in the process of applying — so it appears some may have to go back and supplement the already intensive vetting. Additionally, the new requirements — such as collecting biographical details dating back a decade — are likely to complicate, if not outright disqualify, some of the most vulnerable refugees. For example, those fleeing war-ravaged areas like Syria, or places such as Somalia with poor government infrastructure, often lack paperwork and proper documentation.
These stricter guidelines are set to go into effect Wednesday. The administration has already dramatically reduced the number of refugees it will accept in 2018 to a maximum of 45,000. It is the lowest number allowed since the White House began capping refugee arrivals in 1980, according to NPR. It is not even clear — particularly with these rigid vetting requirements, which are likely to slow the application process — if the U.S. will even meet this number, despite the global refugee crisis.