Exclusive: Expecting Trump action, U.S.
suspends refugee resettlement interviews
Send a link to a friend
[January 27, 2017]
By Yeganeh Torbati
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Department
of Homeland Security has temporarily halted trips by staff to interview
refugees abroad as it prepares for a likely shakeup of refugee policy by
President Donald Trump, two sources with knowledge of the decision said
The decision effectively amounts to a pause in future refugee
admissions, given that the interviews are a crucial step in an often
The DHS leadership's decision to halt the interview trips was
communicated to those involved in the U.S. refugee admission process on
Wednesday, one of the sources said.
It means that though Trump has not yet ordered a temporary halt to the
refugee program, future admissions are likely to be delayed.
Trump is expected to sign an executive order that would include a
temporary ban on all refugees, and a suspension of visas for citizens of
Syria and six other Middle Eastern and African countries.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters on Thursday that Trump
could sign several executive orders on Friday, but that the nature of
those had not been decided yet.
Becca Heller, director of the International Refugee Assistance Project
at the New York-based Urban Justice Center, said she was informed of the
decision to halt the overseas interviews by several people in and
outside of government.
Gillian Christensen, a spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration
Services, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security and which
conducts the interviews, said the agency had delayed "a number of
upcoming trips" but that they had not been "officially canceled."
DHS officers regularly visit countries such as Jordan, Malaysia, El
Salvador, Kenya and Ethiopia to interview refugees seeking to enter the
United States. It is usually one of the last steps in the refugee
Heller said the decision to halt the overseas interviews would cause
delays in refugee processing even if Trump decides to maintain the
refugee program or re-start it after a temporary closure.
[to top of second column]
A volunteer contacts the relatives of an undocumented immigrant from
Guatemala after arriving to Announciation House, an organisation
that provides shelter to immigrants and refugees, in El Paso, U.S.
January 17, 2017. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo
"In the past, when we've frozen the refugee program to re-examine
security issues, it's been really important to continue processing
even if you can't admit people, because processing times in this
program can be two to three years," Heller said.
During the election campaign, Trump decried former President Barack
Obama's decision to increase the number of Syrian refugees admitted
to the United States over fears that those fleeing the country's
civil war would carry out attacks.
Obama approved allowing up to 110,000 refugees in the 2017 fiscal
year, compared with 85,000 the prior year.
Trump said during the election campaign that there was no proper
system to vet refugees.
In addition to the interviews, refugees hoping to be resettled in
the United States undergo extensive security screening by multiple
U.S. agencies as well as vetting by the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees.
(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Kieran Murray
and Leslie Adler)
[© 2017 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2017 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.