A look at Trump's executive order on refugees, immigration

A look at Trump's executive order on refugees, immigration

January 27th, 2017 by Associated Press in National Political

President Donald Trump, left, with Defense Secretary James Mattis, right, watching, explains the executive action on extreme vetting that he is about to sign at the Pentagon in Washington, Friday, Jan. 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Photo by The Associated Press /Times Free Press.

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday making major changes to America's policies on refugees and immigration.

A look at what Trump ordered:

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SYRIA

Trump's order directs the State Department to stop issuing visas to Syrian nationals and halts the processing of Syrian refugees. That will remain in effect until Trump determines that enough security changes have been made to ensure that would-be terrorists can't exploit weaknesses in the current vetting system.

The president also called on the Pentagon and the State Department to create a plan for safe zones in and around Syria to offer protection for Syrians fleeing the war there.

Safe zones were proposed by both Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton during the campaign and were considered by the Obama administration years ago, but ruled out because of the cost, manpower and other resources required to implement them. Those challenges have only grown since Russia introduced advanced air defense systems into Syria.

That means U.S. personnel could potentially end up confronting the Russians or Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces if the U.S. tries to prevent Assad's warplanes from operating in the zones.

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REFUGEES

Trump ordered a four-month suspension to America's broader refugee program. The suspension is intended to provide time to review how refugees are vetted before they are allowed to resettle in the United States.

Trump's order also cuts the number of refugees the United States plans to accept this budget year by more than half, to 50,000 people from around the world.

During the last budget year the U.S. accepted 84,995 refugees, including 12,587 people from Syria. President Barack Obama had set the current refugee limit at 110,000.

The temporary halt to refugee processing does include exceptions for people claiming religious persecution, so long as their religion is a minority faith in their country. That could apply to Christians from Muslim-majority countries.

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EXTREME VETTING

Trump's order did not spell out specifically what additional steps he wants to see the Homeland Security and State departments to add to the country's vetting system for refugees. Instead he directed officials to the review the refugee application and approval process to find any other security measures that can be added to prevent people who pose a threat from using the refugee program.

During the Obama administration, vetting for refugees included in-person interviews overseas, where they provided biographical details about themselves, including their families, friendships, social or political activities, employment, phone numbers, email accounts and more. They also provided biometric information, including fingerprints. Syrians were subject to additional, classified controls that administration officials at the time declined to describe, and processing for that group routinely took years to complete.

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OTHER IMMIGRATION

Trump's executive order suspends all immigration from countries with terrorism concerns for 90 days. It was unclear from the law cited in the order which countries would be affected, though a draft of the order obtained by The Associated Press pointed to a legal provision that identified Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, all majority-Muslim countries, for at least 30 days. The order also calls for Homeland Security and State Department officials, along with the director of national intelligence, to review what information the government needs to fully vet would-be visitors and come up with a list of countries that don't provide it. The order says the government will give countries 60 days to start providing the information or citizens from those countries will be barred from traveling to the United States.

Barring any travel to the U.S. from those seven countries, even temporarily, appears to at least partially fulfill a campaign promise Trump made to ban Muslims from coming to the United States until assurances can be made that visitors are properly vetted.

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Follow Alicia A. Caldwell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/acaldwellap