(USA Today) President Trump ended his first week in office by ordering the State Department to develop "extreme vetting" measures for immigrants from countries with ties to terrorism.
After speaking at the Pentagon, Trump signed an executive order Friday (Jan. 27) to implement the new vetting measures to keep "radical Islamic terrorists" out of the United States. Doing so, he said, is one way to honor the sacrifices made by Americans who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, and those fighting terrorism around the world.
"We want to ensure that we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas," he said. "We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country and love deeply our people."
Media outlets, including the New York Times and Reuters, have reported this week that Trump's order would suspend the U.S. refugee program and temporarily halt all legal immigration from Syria and six other countries with close ties to terrorism. The White House did not immediately release the order Trump signed on Friday, but critics and supporters responded quickly.
Trump drew widespread condemnation from Democrats, immigrant and civil rights groups around the world.
The American Civil Liberties Union described Trump's "extreme vetting" as "just a euphemism for discriminating against Muslims." And David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, said the order was completely unnecessary since the U.S. already has the "strongest, most successful" resettlement program in the world.
"In truth, refugees are fleeing terror — they are not terrorists," Miliband said. "And at a time when there are more refugees than ever, America must remain true to its core values. America must remain a beacon of hope."
Congressional Republicans said they would work with Trump to implement the new vetting procedures. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, described the U.S. refugee program as a "Trojan Horse" for would-be terrorists that had been ignored by President Obama.
"President Trump signed an order to help prevent jihadists from infiltrating the United States," McCaul said. "With the stroke of a pen, he is doing more to shut down terrorist pathways into this country than the last administration did in eight years."
President Obama had increased the refugee resettlement program during his time in office, increasing the cap from 60,000 to 70,000 to 85,000 in 2016. He reserved 10,000 of those spots for refugees from Syria.
While Trump has claimed that most Syrian refugees coming to the U.S are single, military-age men, the State Department said those numbers didn't add up.
As of Nov. 2015, 77 percent of Syrian refugees who entered the U.S. were women and children. Only 23 percent were adult men, and only 2 percent were "single men unattached to families."
(Alan Gomez writes for USA Today)