- The Washington Times - Friday, January 27, 2017

President Trump imposed a pause Friday on the U.S. refugee program, suspended the visa waiver program and halted all arrivals from some countries with a history of terrorism, in a broad executive order fulfilling one of his more controversial campaign pledges.

He ordered his administration to use the four-month pause in refugees to come up with a plan for stiffer vetting, and said once the program resumes, it will only take refugees from countries where the U.S. can be assured it is able to vet applicants. And Mr. Trump said priority should be given to religious minorities from those countries.

He singled out Syria, imposing a full stop on all refugees from that war-torn country.

“We only want to admit those into our country who sill support our country and love, deeply, our people,” Mr. Trump said as he signed the order at the Pentagon.

Even before the text of the order was released Democrats and immigrant-rights groups pounced, criticizing what they said they expected Mr. Trump to do: surrender American leadership on human rights. They said that was particularly troubling since Friday was Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“They are un-American, driven by xenophobia, and will damage our nation’s standing around the world,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, the ranking Democrat on the House’s immigration subcommittee.

SEE ALSO: White House says U.S. still most open immigration system even after Trump orders

A number of Democrats called his plan a “Muslim ban” — equating it with the broad type of exclusion policy Mr. Trump talked about early in the campaign.

But the policy signed Friday does not single out a religion, instead going after programs that Mr. Trump says have loopholes that terrorists could exploit.

Analysts said Mr. Trump is likely on solid legal ground, since immigration law gives the president expansive powers to deny any “class” of person from entering, if he deems it in the country’s interest.

Still, human rights groups said that the demand for resettling refugees is soaring, and said American efforts are critical to meeting the demands.

Refugees undergo the strictest screening of any immigrants to the U.S., but top security officials said war-torn countries at odds with the U.S., such as Syria, pose a particular problem since American authorities don’t have access to databases or on-the-ground information to help them make decisions.

Congressional Republicans had sought to put new controls on the process, writing legislation that would have required the chiefs of the FBI, Homeland Security and the intelligence community to personally sign off on each Syrian.

President Obama vowed a veto and Senate Democrats blocked the bill, saying it would have been too difficult to make that kind of certification for each refugee.

Obama administration officials said no refugees from the Syrian program have been charged with terrorism — though two refugees from Iraq, which was what the Syrian program was based on, were charged a year ago with terrorism-related counts.

One of those men last lived in Syria before becoming a refugee to the U.S., though he is still counted as an Iraqi refugee because that was his original home.

Mr. Obama committed the U.S. to taking in 10,000 Syrian refugees in 2016, and the government exceeded that goal with more than 12,500 resettled. When he left office, the country was on pace to take in significantly more this year.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide

Sponsored Stories