The U.S. refugee program will enhance screening procedures by which foreigners from high-risk countries are admitted, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen announced Monday. The agency will also set a minimum security standard for countries in order to share counterterrorism data.
"We will be rolling out new security measures for applicants from high-risk countries, which will seek to prevent the program from being exploited by terrorists, criminals and fraudsters. These changes will not only improve security, but importantly, they will help us better assist legitimate refugees fleeing persecution," Nielsen said at a Wilson Center and Aspen Institute event in Washington, D.C.
Nielsen said DHS consulted with the State Department and intelligence community on enhancing the program after President Trump ordered a review upon taking office last year.
The trio of federal groups also created a first-of-its-kind global baseline that all foreign countries must meet before sharing counterterrorism data.
"We have worked successfully with almost every country in the world to reach this baseline, which has improved both U.S. and international security. The handful of nations that have failed to comply are subject to tough but tailored travel restrictions and we continue to work with them to reach the baseline," Nielsen said, without specifying how many nations have not cooperated.
She defended the new screening policy, which may have a similar public response to Trump's travel ban last year.
"America has a proud history of welcoming those who want to visit or become a part of our enduring democratic republic. This will not change, but we will not tolerate countries who refuse to cooperate with us to stop terrorists, criminals, and other threats," she added. "And I want to be clear, these restrictions have nothing to do with race or religion. This is about information sharing and knowing who as an individual is coming into our country."