In a week of disturbing executive actions, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that would establish "extreme vetting" for refugees, in an effort to "keep radical Islamic terrorists out."
According to The Guardian, the president gave no details on the order, which he signed at the Department of Defense today.
"We don’t want ‘em here. We want to ensure we aren’t admitting into our country the very threats that our men and women are fighting overseas," said Trump, reported The Guardian.
A previous draft of the order, leaked to the press earlier this week, directed government agencies to:
- Lower the number of refugees allowed entry in 2017 to 50,000 — cutting the current policy of 110,000 annual refugees by more than half,
- Block entry to any refugees from Syria, indefinitely,
- Temporarily suspend any visa issuances to people in countries "where the administration considers security screening inadequate" ― said to consist of Muslim-majority countries Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen.
The text of the order, like much of Trump's campaign rhetoric, uses the language of domestic security, couched in fear of terrorism. This is dramatically out of proportion with the actual statistics on crime among immigrants and refugees, when in reality, newcomers to the U.S. commit far less crime than those born here.
The order also misrepresents the intense and prolonged vetting process refugees already undergo to gain entry to the United States. In an animated video last year, then-Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson narrated a 4-minute video explaining how refugees hoping to enter the United States must “undergo a security screening process that is more thorough than any other for people entering this country” — one that includes tests and interviews conducted by five different governmental departments.
“America has become a better nation by welcoming refugees in a time of crisis,” Johnson says in the video.
“We can and we will continue to ensure our own security, while doing our share to welcome men, women, and children who are refugees fleeing violence. This is the United States of America. We can, we must, and we will do both these things.”
While the text of the order may have since changed, the general thrust of the document is a striking departure from longtime U.S. policy.
Although it reflects anti-refugee sentiment spreading worldwide, the draft of Trump’s order represents a dramatic upending of current U.S. policy toward some of the globe’s most unstable regions. It will inevitably face opposition from human rights groups, civil liberties organizations, Democrats and even members of the Christian right, who have encouraged a sympathetic approach to the refugee crisis.
Read the full text of the draft order here.