U.S. Alert – Ban on Refugees Expires; Trump Administration Calls for Additional Vetting for 11 Nationalities During 90-Day Review Period

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The Trump administration’s 120-day ban on refugee admissions expired on October 24, 2017. On the same day, the Department of State announced that “additional in-depth review is needed with respect to refugees of 11 nationalities previously identified as potentially posing a higher risk to the United States. Admissions for applicants of those 11 potentially higher-risk nationalities will resume on a case-by-case basis during a new 90-day review period.”

Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State; Elaine Duke, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security; and Daniel Coats, Director of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, sent a related memorandum on October 23, 2017, to President Trump. The State Department announcement and memo do not list the 11 countries, but according to reports, the countries appear to be Egypt, Iran, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen; and Palestinians living in those countries. The memo notes that the 11 countries were those designated on the Security Advisory Opinion (SAO) list, which was established following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States and has evolved over the years through interagency consultations.

The memo states that during the 90-day review period, while a “detailed threat analysis” is being conducted of those 11 countries, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security “will temporarily prioritize refugee applications from other non-SAO countries,” and that resources that may have been dedicated to processing nationals or stateless persons of SAO countries will be reallocated during that period “to process applicants from non-SAO countries for whom the processing may not be as resource intensive.”

The Department also announced on October 24 that “[f]or family members who are ‘following-to- join’ refugees that have already been resettled in the United States, additional security measures must also be implemented for all nationalities. Admissions of following-to-join refugees will resume once those enhancements have been implemented.” The October 23 memo states that Mr. Tillerson, Ms. Duke, and Mr. Coats “have jointly determined that additional security measures must be implemented before admission of following-to-join refugees can resume.” Those measures are to include “adequate screening mechanisms” that are “similar to the processes employed for principal refugees.”

An Executive Order issued by President Trump on October 24, 2017, states, among other things, that within 180 days, the Attorney General will “provide a report to the President on the effect of refugee resettlement in the United States on the national security, public safety, and general welfare of the United States. The report shall include any recommendations the Attorney General deems necessary to advance those interests.”

The Executive Order also states that within 90 days of October 24, 2017, and annually thereafter, the Secretary of Homeland Security will determine “whether any actions taken to address the risks to the security and welfare of the United States presented by permitting any category of refugees to enter this country should be modified or terminated, and, if so, what those modifications or terminations should be.”

Meanwhile, President Trump announced that the maximum number of refugee admissions to the United States in fiscal year 2018 will be lowered to 45,000, which is the lowest number since the Refugee Act was passed in 1980.

The U.S. Supreme Court said on October 24, 2017, that it would not consider the merits or legality of the Trump administration’s travel ban, issued in March, due to its expiration. Other challenges to new Presidential orders are working their way through lower courts.

The Department of State’s October 24 announcement is at https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2017/10/275074.htm. The October 23 memo is at https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/275306.pdf. President Trump’s related Executive Order is at https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/10/24/presidential-executive- order-resuming-united-states-refugee-admissions. The White House announcement of the 45,000 refugee cap for FY 2018 is at https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press- office/2017/09/29/president-donald-j-trump-taking-responsible-and-humanitarian-approach.