Politics

Trump’s Travel Order Opens Door to Targeting More Countries

Order also mandates data collection on honor killings in the U.S.

A passenger from a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight from Jeddah arrives at Dulles International Airport on Jan. 29 to demonstrators protesting President Donald Trump’s first executive order on immigration. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Pool file photo)

President Donald Trump’s modified executive order on travel and refugees creates requirements for a stream of reports that could lead to more countries being targeted for visa restrictions and a new effort to tally the prevalence of honor killings in the United States.

Trump’s order takes effect Thursday and will stop the issuance of new U.S. visas to nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for three months. It also halts the arrival of refugees for four months while the State, Homeland Security and Justice departments review and tighten entry procedures for foreigners.

While the order focuses on those six majority-Muslim countries, it also casts a global net to identify other countries that could be targeted in the future.

Within 20 days of the order taking effect, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly is required to conduct a “worldwide review” and report to the White House on “information needed from each country for adjudications and a list of countries that do not provide adequate information,” according to the order.

Following the Homeland Security report, the secretary of State is to ask all foreign governments to provide the additional information, giving them 50 days to comply. After that period, State, Justice and Homeland Security may recommend adding to the list more countries that don’t cooperate and whose nationals would be denied entry to the United States as a result.

Kelly told CNN last week that his department has already identified more than a dozen countries whose nationals could be blocked from traveling to the United States because of their lax screening procedures or because of the extra scrutiny being contemplated.

“There are countries out there that we’ll ask … to cooperate with us better,” Kelly told CNN. “There are probably 13 or 14 other countries, not all of them Muslim countries, not all of them in the Middle East, that have very questionable vetting procedures that we can rely on, and then if we overlay additional vetting procedures, the chances are … there’ll be minimum citizens from those countries that visit our country.”

Kelly, in consultation with intelligence officials and with his counterparts at State and Justice, could ask that countries be taken off the prohibited list, but the order allows Homeland Security to propose that new countries be added to the list on a continuous basis.

“At any point after the submission of the list,” after the initial review, Kelly “may submit to the president the names of any additional countries recommended for similar treatment,” the order says.

Additional measures

It is unclear what extra screening measures or additional information U.S. officials are seeking from other countries. But Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Kelly said last week that after Baghdad agreed to step up cooperation, Iraq was removed from the original list of seven Muslim-majority countries whose nationals were banned from entering the United States under Trump’s original Jan. 27 order.

Asked at a Jan. 31 news conference what constitutes “extreme vetting” measures, Kelly said U.S. embassies could demand from visa applicants details of websites visited, social media presence and phone information to “see who they’re talking to.”

U.S. officials “identified multiple security measures” over the past month that U.S. and Iraq “will be implementing to achieve our shared objective of preventing those with criminal or terroristic intent from reaching the United States,” Tillerson said last week without providing any details on the measures.

Trump has directed the three Cabinet agencies to produce a joint report on progress in implementing the order at regular intervals. The first report would come 60 days after March 16 — or May 15 — followed by reports at three-, four-, and five-month intervals.

Screening program

Trump’s latest travel order also directs State, Justice and Homeland Security to “implement a program” to develop a “uniform baseline for screening and vetting standards and procedures, such as in-person interviews” for visas, “a database of identity documents” produced by applicants, and “questions aimed at identifying fraudulent answers and malicious intent.”

The goal of the program is to “identify individuals who seek to enter the United States on a fraudulent basis, who support terrorism, violent extremism, acts of violence toward any group of class of people” in the country.

The order also requires a slew of data collection efforts and reports on a variety of information, including the number of foreign nationals charged, convicted or removed because of terrorism-related offenses while in the United States, and foreign nationals who became radicalized after entering the country.

The order mandates data collection on the “number and types of acts of gender-based violence against women, including so-called honor killings in the United States by foreign nationals.” In some cultures, girls or women are killed if they are thought to have brought dishonor to their family.

Honor-killing data

“We see news reports about honor killings occurring, as well as other gender-based violence, but very little aggregated statistical information is available to the American people about its prevalence in our society,” a Homeland Security official said.

The president’s order seeks to “identify any existing possible issues so that we can address them with clarity and resolve to protect innocent people across the country,” the official said.

A November 2014 report commissioned by the Justice Department but not officially published by the agency includes information on forced marriages, domestic violence, female genital mutilation and honor killings under the category of honor violence.

The document, titled “Report on Exploratory Study into Honor Violence Measurement Methods,” cited United Nations data from 2000 and applied U.S. demographic information to estimate that there could be as many as 27 honor killings in the United States each year.

The study concluded that there was no “reliable summary data available” in the United States on honor violence.

This story was originally published on CQ.com on March 7. 

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