Trump’s ‘ex­treme vet­ting’ of for­eign­ers gets close look

Crit­ics see hur­dles with thou­sands en­ter­ing ev­ery day

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY S.A. MILLER

Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump’s plan to im­pose “ex­treme vet­ting” on foreign vis­i­tors en­ter­ing the U.S. re­ceived fresh scru­tiny amid the rash of vi­o­lent at­tacks across Europe and the Mid­dle East, with warn­ings that it faces lo­gis­ti­cal and po­lit­i­cal ob­sta­cles.

The ex­treme vet­ting is sup­posed to en­tail deeper back­ground in­ves­ti­ga­tions of vis­i­tors from ter­ror­ist hot­beds in­clud­ing Iraq, Ye­men and So­ma­lia, and the use of stricter cri­te­ria for en­try into the U.S., such as mak­ing be­lief in the supremacy of Shariah law grounds for ex­clu­sion.

A Trump tran­si­tion of­fi­cial said the team is work­ing on a num­ber of bor­der se­cu­rity and im­mi­gra­tion im­prove­ments but was not ready to an­nounce de­tails.

The ex­tra vet­ting, as well as plans to sus­pend ac­cep­tance of Syr­ian refugees into the U.S. and to se­cure the south­ern bor­der, are key el­e­ments of Mr. Trump’s home­land se­cu­rity agenda aimed at stop­ping the Is­lamic State and other global ji­hadi groups.

Vic­tor Asal, a po­lit­i­cal science pro­fes­sor at the State Univer­sity of New York at Al­bany who spe­cial­izes in na­tional se­cu­rity is­sues, ques­tioned the cost and ef­fec­tive­ness of the pro­gram.

“It would re­quire enor­mous in­vest­ments of re­sources be­cause there are thou­sands and thou­sands of peo­ple com­ing into the coun­try ev­ery day,” he said. “The ques­tion arises, ‘Is that the best use of the re­sources?’”

De­spite the pres­i­dent’s con­sti­tu­tional au­thor­ity to ex­clude peo­ple deemed dan­ger­ous from en­ter­ing the coun­try, he said, the pro­gram could be chal­lenged in court if the ba­sis of screen­ing ap­peared bi­ased or dis­crim­i­na­tory, such as pro­fil­ing Mus­lims or peo­ple of Mid­dle Eastern de­scent.

“Deem­ing as dan­ger­ous is dif­fer­ent then vet­ting,” Mr. Asal said.

Still, he said, the cur­rent screen­ing process has holes. “There are holes in ev­ery­thing.”

The plan also will en­counter re­sis­tance on Capi­tol Hill, where Democrats crit­i­cize Mr. Trump’s pro­posal to tem­po­rar­ily ban Mus­lims from en­ter­ing the U.S. un­til a screen­ing sys­tem is de­vel­oped to weed out ter­ror­ists. In Au­gust, Mr. Trump re­placed the pro­posal of a Mus­lim ban with tougher screen­ing of im­mi­grants, asy­lum seek­ers and foreign vis­i­tors based on their at­ti­tudes to­ward Amer­ica, sim­i­lar to the cri­te­ria for cit­i­zen­ship.

Asked about ex­treme vet­ting, Rep. Ben­nie G. Thomp­son of Mis­sis­sippi, the rank­ing Demo­crat on the House Home­land Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee, vouched for the thor­ough­ness of the cur­rent screen­ing process.

“Ban­ning en­tire groups of peo­ple from the U.S. is not an ef­fec­tive way to keep our na­tion se­cure,” he said. “I strongly sup­port con­tin­ued ro­bust vet­ting for all vis­i­tors, im­mi­grants and refugees to this coun­try in a way that keeps our coun­try safe and up­holds Amer­i­can val­ues.”

The plan to use ex­treme vet­ting came to the fore­front with re­newed fears of ter­ror­ist strikes after at­tack Mon­day in Turkey and Ger­many. In Turkey, the Rus­sian am­bas­sador was shot dead by an off-duty po­lice­man who yelled, “Al­lahu ak­bar.” In Ger­many, a truck driver plowed into a Christ­mas bazaar and killed 12 peo­ple.

Kellyanne Conway, a se­nior ad­viser to the tran­si­tion team, said the ex­treme vet­ting plan is pop­u­lar and one key rea­son Mr. Trump was elected.

“His ex­treme vet­ting pro­gram is very at­trac­tive to many Amer­i­cans be­cause we sim­ply don’t have one now. You have coun­tries that har­bor, train and ex­port ter­ror­ist — most def­i­nitely rad­i­cal Is­lamic ter­ror­ists — that are not vet­ted,” Ms. Conway said on Fox News.

“We just don’t know who lives among us. We don’t know whose mi­grat­ing in from coun­try to coun­try and what their in­ten­tions are,” she said. “It’s not just peace through strength, but strong lead­er­ship around the globe, and stop­ping ter­ror­ism was a huge piece of his vic­tory and will be a huge piece on Day One of his ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

Rep. Michael T. McCaul, Texas Repub­li­can and chair­man of the House Home­land Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee, called this month for a se­cu­rity over­haul that in­cluded ex­treme vet­ting. In a speech at the con­ser­va­tive Her­itage Foun­da­tion, he said the coun­try was less safe after eight years un­der Pres­i­dent Obama but Mr. Trump is “more clear-eyed about the dan­ger.”

“We must be­gin ex­treme vet­ting of foreign trav­el­ers,” he said. “There are many ways to reach our shores, in­clud­ing as a tourist, stu­dent, im­mi­grant or refugee. Ter­ror­ists have ex­ploited ev­ery sin­gle one of th­ese routes, so we need to ramp up se­cu­rity for all of them.”


Rep. Ben­nie G. Thomp­son, the rank­ing Demo­crat on the House Home­land Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee, said the cur­rent screen­ing process for peo­ple en­ter­ing the United States is thor­ough and that ban­ning en­tire groups is “not an ef­fec­tive way to keep our na­tion se­cure.”

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