President Donald Trump on Tuesday allowed the resumption of refugee admissions as a complete ban he instituted four months ago expired, but the administration is adding “enhanced” screening procedures and a 90-day review for nationals from 11 countries believed to pose a higher risk to U.S. national security.
Officials refused to identify the 11 countries, but said refugee applications from those nations will be accepted and judged case-by-case.
Trump issued an executive order directing relevant government agencies to resume refugee processing, which he clamped down on shortly after taking office. Trump argued that the U.S. needed to do a better job determining whom it allowed into the country given the threat of terrorism.
Under an executive order Trump signed earlier this year, the United States had temporarily halted admissions for refugees from all countries, with some exceptions. That order expired Tuesday and was replaced by the new one.
Officials declined to describe the new screening procedures in detail, but they include such measures as collecting additional information to better determine whether refugees are being truthful about their status; stationing fraud detection officers at certain locations overseas; and improving training for adjudicators who process refugee applications.
Trump has made limiting immigration a centerpiece of his policy agenda.
Besides the travel ban, which initially targeted a handful of Muslim-majority nations, the president rescinded an Obama-era executive action protecting immigrants brought to the country as minors from deportation. He also has vowed to build a wall along the border with Mexico.
During the presidential campaign, Trump pledged to “stop the massive inflow of refugees” and warned that terrorists were smuggling themselves into naive countries by posing as refugees fleeing war-torn Syria.
“Thousands of refugees are being admitted with no way to screen them and are instantly made eligible for welfare and free health care, even as our own veterans, our great, great veterans, die while they’re waiting online for medical care that they desperately need,” Trump said last October.
Trump has advocated keeping refugees closer to their homes.