May 4, 2017

NIAC Deeply Concerned By New “Extreme Vetting” Proposal

Contact: Shayan Modarres
Phone: 202-780-9590
Email: [email protected]

Washington, D.C. – The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) is profoundly concerned by the Trump administration’s newly released proposal for “extreme vetting” interview questions.

“Donald Trump’s Muslim ban has been blocked by multiple courts so now he is attempting to circumvent the judiciary and impose a Muslim ban through new measures,” said Shayan Modarres, Legal Counsel for NIAC. “This proposal makes America less safe and would do further damage to the values and protections that are fundamental to this country.”

Trump’s “extreme vetting” proposal includes broad new authorities to reject visas for certain travelers. Most shockingly, it would require certain visa applicants to provide all of their social media history over the past five years.

Allowing consular officials the broad authority to assume an individual is a danger based on their location or social media activity could lead to drastic increases in the processing times of visas for individuals of certain countries that have not been proven to be a security threat.

“The broad discretion the administration is proposing offers carte blanche for abuse and – given the Trump’s administration’s track record – we wholly expect it to be abused,” said Modarres. “A consular official could decide not to grant a visa to someone because they posted an unflattering picture of President Trump on their Twitter feed or criticized the president on Facebook.”

The State Department offers no clarity on which visa applicants will be subject to these “extreme vetting” questions, placing unabated discretion in the hands of consular officers to determine which individuals require additional screening.

Without clear guidelines, it is difficult to ascertain the full implications of this proposal and offer little confidence that these measures would not be abused or arbitrarily – and perhaps discriminatorily – enforced. Iranian-Americans fear that this enhanced scrutiny will be used as part of the Trump administration’s long-documented efforts to impose a Muslim ban or otherwise drive down the numbers of individuals from Muslim-majority nations seeking visas.

Moreover, the information collection is unnecessary to the Department of State and previous tests of similar data collection efforts failed to measure their effectiveness. The proposal by the Department fails to establish any criteria for measuring the performance of these new vetting measures to gauge whether the intended objectives are being met.

“One would think that in the wake of a 28% cut to State Department funding by the White House, Secretary Tillerson would avoid diverting limited resources away from proven security measures and towards ideological witch hunts,” said Modarres. “This administration seems intent on targeting Muslim populations with the aim of reducing the number of Muslims in the United States, which is a dangerous and un-American path that Congress, the courts, and the American people must reject.”

If granted, the emergency approval from OMB would be valid for 180 days, while the Trump administration attempts to go through proper channels to achieve a more permanent change in visa procedures.


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