DHS Rolls Out New Screening Program For Refugees From High-Risk Countries

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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The Department of Homeland Security announced Monday it will implement enhanced screening in the U.S. refugee program, saying the additional measures will better ferret out potential threats from certain high-risk countries.

Working with the State Department and intelligence officials, DHS evaluated the vetting procedures for 11 countries identified as especially risky for terrorism and fraud, according to senior administration officials. The review was pursuant to President Donald Trump’s executive order in October, which mandated a 90-day period to assess whether changes were needed in the screening of applicants from terror-prone countries.

Admissions from the 11 high-risk countries, which had been limited to a case-by-case basis during the review period, will now resume with the enhanced screening in place. DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen identified three changes to the refugee admissions program, administration officials said.
First, homeland security officials will broaden and deepen the scope of their interviews with applicants from the 11 high risk countries. Officials said the stricter interview will dig deeper into applicants’ backgrounds,

Nielsen also determined refugee admissions needed evaluated in a “risk-based manner,” informed by a continuous analysis of potential threats to the U.S.

Finally, Nielsen found that the criteria for labeling countries as “high risk” should be updated through a “comprehensive assessment” of national security threats. Additional criteria would look beyond terrorism to other potential threats to U.S. security such as transnational criminal gangs, administration officials said.

“It’s critically important that we know who is entering the United States,” Nielsen said in a statement. “These additional security measures will make it harder for bad actors to exploit our refugee program, and they will ensure we take a more risk-based approach to protecting the homeland.”


Refugee admissions had slowed considerably during the 90-day review period mandated in Trump’s order. In the first quarter of FY2018 –October, November and December — about 5,300 refugees were admitted, setting a pace that would fall well short of the 2018 cap of 45,000 set by Trump last year.

People from the countries under review were just 5 percent of all refugee admissions in the first three months of the fiscal year. The Trump administration has not publicly confirmed which countries are on the high-risk list, but they are widely reported to be Iraq, Somalia Syria, Iran, Egypt, Libya, Mali, North Korea, South Sudan, Sudan, and Yemen.
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