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Homeland Security Today: What Has DHS Done To Examine, Improve Vetting, House HS Committee Member Wants To Know

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Washington, March 8, 2017 | comments
By Homeland Security Today Staff

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly was asked Tuesday for information about directives in Trump’s original January 27 Executive Order, Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, which weren’t affected by the court's temporary restraining order (TRO).

On February 3, a federal court issued a TRO preventing the enforcement of five specific sections of the original Executive Order, but several provisions of the original order were not subject to the TRO.

In a letter to Kelly, Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY), a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security and ranking member of the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, pointed out in a statement that “while a federal court issued a temporary restraining order preventing the enforcement of some of the Executive Order’s most controversial provisions, several significant sections of the original Executive Order were not affected by the TRO and remain in effect until the revised Executive Order is implemented on March 16, 2017.

Rice said Section 3(a) and Section 3(b) were unaffected by the TRO, pointing out that Section 3(a) directed Kelly, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), to “immediately conduct a review to determine the information needed from any country to adjudicate any visa, admission, or other benefit … in order to determine that the individual seeking the benefit is who the individual claims to be and is not a security or public-safety threat.”

Section 3(b) directed Kelly, within 30 days of the date of the original Executive Order, to report to the President on the results of that review, including his “determination of the information needed for adjudications and a list of countries that do not provide adequate information.”

"Was that report submitted to the President by February 26, as required by the original Executive Order?" Rice asked. And, "If so, will a copy be provided to the House Committee on Homeland Security? If the report has not been submitted, has this review been initiated and is it still underway?"

Section 4(a) directed the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security, the DNI, and the Director of the FBI to develop a “uniform screening standard and procedure” for all immigration programs in order to prevent the entry of individuals who seek to do harm upon arriving in the US. Section 4(b) directed Kelly, in consultation with the Secretary of State, the DNI, and the Director of the FBI, to report to the President on the progress of this directive within 60 days of the date of the original Executive Order, again within 100 days, and again within 200 days.

"Have you and your counterparts begun the process of developing this uniform screening standard and procedure? Is the first report on schedule to be submitted to the President by March 28, 2017, as required by the original Executive Order?" Rice asked Kelly. "If so, will this report and the subsequent two reports be provided to the House Committee on Homeland Security?”

Section 5(g) of the original Executive Order said “It is the policy of the executive branch that, to the extent permitted by law and as practicable, state and local jurisdictions be granted a role in the process of determining the placement or settlement” of refugees in their jurisdictions.”

Section 5(g) further directed Kelly to examine existing law to determine the extent to which state and local jurisdictions can be more involved in the refugee resettlement process, and to “devise a proposal to lawfully promote such involvement.”

Rice asked Kelly whether “DHS completed this review,” and, “If so, will the results of this review be provided to the House Committee on Homeland Security? If the results will be provided to the Committee, when can we expect to receive them?”

Section 10 directed Kelly, in consultation with the Attorney General, to collect and make publicly available, within 180 days of the date of the original Executive Order and every 180 days thereafter, information regarding: the number of foreign nationals in the US who have been charged with or convicted of terrorism-related offenses while in the US, or have been removed from the US because of terrorism-related activities or other national security concerns; the number of foreign nationals who have been radicalized after entry to the US and engaged in or supported terrorism-related acts or organizations; the number and types of acts of gender-based violence against women, including honor killings, in the United States committed by foreign nationals; and any other information Kelly and Attorney General Jeff Session deemed important to public safety and security.

“Have you and the Attorney General begun the process of collecting this information?” Rice asked.

Rice told Kelly, “The administration has maintained that they must suspend refugee resettlements and travel from certain countries in order to review and strengthen vetting procedures. While I believe that our current exhaustive vetting and screening procedures are effective, particularly for refugees, I recognize that our processes are never perfect and we should always be looking for ways to improve them. Since the provisions of the original Executive Order outlined above were not affected by the TRO, I assume DHS and other relevant agencies have already begun to follow these directives – if not, it would suggest that the administration did nothing for 39 days to examine and improve vetting and screening procedures, which would call into question the administration’s stated purpose for issuing this Executive Order.”

Rice “respectfully request[ed] Kelly “provide prompt answers to [her] questions … as well as an update on any efforts taken or progress made pursuant to any other provisions of the original Executive Order that were not affected by the TRO.”
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