U.S. President Donald Trump has signed an executive order resuming the admission of refugees into the country, but imposed tougher scrutiny on nationals from 11 countries identified as posing a high risk to national security.
The new order was issued Tuesday as an earlier order that imposed a 120-day ban on refugee admissions expired. All refugees hoping to enter the United States will face additional, enhanced vetting measures, such as providing additional biographical information than previously required, under the new directive.
Nationals from the 11 countries identified as high risk will face an extra 90-day review on their application, and will be admitted into the United States on a case-by-case basis if their entry is deemed in the national interest, and they pose no threat to Americans.
Officials refused to name the 11 countries, but both Reuters and the French news agency have identified them as the same countries whose nationals are already required to undergo higher-level screening known as Security Advisory Opinions -- Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Refugee advocates say the tighter requirements on refugees from those nations could add months, if not years, to the application process, effectively banning them from coming into the United States.
Tuesday's order is the latest in President Trump's efforts to follow through on his campaign promises to curtail the number of refugees allowed to enter the United States. He issued temporary bans on refugees and travelers from several Muslim-majority countries within days of taking office in January. Lawsuits stymied the initial roll-out of the temporary ban. Later, the U.S. Supreme Court determined arrivals could continue as long as the refugees could demonstrate "bona fide" close family ties to the country.
The high court on Tuesday also dismissed a lawsuit by the state of Hawaii against an earlier version of Trump's travel ban - the same one that limited refugee arrivals. The new refugee vetting procedures, and a separate presidential proclamation in September limiting travelers from eight countries, replace much of what the two earlier travel bans attempted. Last week, a judge in Hawaii halted the administration's latest efforts to block travelers from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.
In addition to the forthcoming vetting changes, the Trump administration last month announced it would drop the ceiling on refugee arrivals for the 2018 fiscal year to 45,000, the lowest limit ever set for the program. Former President Barack Obama set the ceiling on refugee arrivals for the previous fiscal year that ended on September 30 at 110,000.