President Trump imposed new restrictions on refugees from 11 mostly-Muslim target countries Tuesday, saying they still pose too much of a danger to be admitted without a compelling national interest.
Mr. Trump issued a new executive order re-starting general worldwide refugee processing, updating the policy after a 120-day pause he ordered earlier this year as part of his “extreme vetting” policy.
But refugees from 11 countries — reportedly Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — will still be tightly restricted, with those applying having to prove they would contribute to the national interests of the U.S. in order to get an exemption.
The new order updates Mr. Trump’s original travel ban, which included the 120-day pause, while the State Department and Homeland Security did a full review of the refugee program.
“The U.S. refugee admissions program takes seriously its commitment to ensure the security and integrity of the program,” said Jennifer B. Higgins, associate director for refugee and asylum operations at USCIS.
She and other administration officials declined to identify the 11 countries, but officials said they came from an interagency process known as SAO.
The new move comes just a month after Mr. Trump announced a major cut to the number of refugees the U.S. could accept in fiscal year 2018, reducing the cap from 110,000 to just 45,000.
Immigrant and refugee advocates, already angry at the lower number, said the new restrictions Tuesday were disappointing and would hurt needy people.
“This will add months, or potentially years, to the most urgent cases — the majority of which are women and children in heinous circumstances who need the permanent and proven solution of resettlement,” said Jennifer Sime, senior vice president at the International Rescue Committee.
The administration briefed reporters on the new order Tuesday afternoon, but said many of the details are too sensitive to divulge. They refused to name the 11 countries, but said they were determined by an interagency process that dates back to 2001, with the most recent list dating back to 2015, during the Obama administration.
“It is those individuals we believe a more in-depth review is needed to assess the current threat,” a senior official said.
Reuters reported the names of the 11 countries that were on the list as of that previous update.
Mr. Trump during last year’s campaign had been harshly critical of U.S. refugee admissions, saying it marked a vulnerability in security.
The issue became more acute in 2015 when then-President Barack Obama set a goal of admitting 10,000 refugees from Syria, despite concerns voiced by his own top security officials that the U.S. couldn’t properly vet them.
Mr. Trump promised to fix that problem in office.
In January he issued his first “extreme vetting” executive order, creating his temporary travel ban on seven majority-Muslim countries and also imposing the 180-day halt on all refugees. Courts blocked that original policy and then severely limited a second attempt.
Last month Mr. Trump announced a revised travel ban, and Tuesday’s refugee announcement fills out the third iteration of extreme vetting.
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