April 24, 2017 -
Janice Kephart, a partner at Identity Strategy Partners, issued a statement which included several recommendations for improving the vetting process for refugees.
The move comes a few months after the former 9/11 Commission border counsel released a statement regarding President Donald Trump’s “Executive Order: Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States”.
The United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), which is run jointly by the State Department with referrals from the United Nations and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), is designed to vet refugees seeking U.S. resettlement.
“With or without President Trump’s March 6, 2017 Executive Order: Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry, refugee vetting can be instilled with greater confidence, enabling the reactivation of legitimate refugee resettlement. (Right now, all refugee applications are suspended by until at least July 2017),” Kephart said in the statement. “Improvements in current refugee vetting will require a language change to current law, identity enrollment taking place earlier in the process, and the implementation of a long-ignored 9/11 Commission recommendation. But improvement is doable, and now.”
Kephart says the program “requires vital improvements,” such as Congress making changes to current legislation to enable U.S. access to refugee biometric data collected by the UN, refugees to be biometrically enrolled the first time they enter the U.S. system, and the implementation of the 9/11 Commission recommendation for a person-centric immigration system.
Since 2013, the UN has operated an advanced biometric identity management system that collects 10 fingerprints, two irises, and face of every refugee, sometimes two to four years before a U.S. referral for initial biographic screening.
However, U.S. law currently prohibits the sharing of biometric information collected by a non-U.S. citizen, which means that the country cannot access this vital information.
Kephart emphasizes that Congress must change this law so that biometric data can be available for vetting against federal databases from the UN and other international partners.
In addition, Kephart recommends that the State begins collecting the biometrics of refugees as part of their pre-screening interviews conducted by their resettlement service staff.
The inclusion of biometrics would result in USCIS interviews being better informed, along with the final assessment.
Finally, State and USCIS use different case filing assignments for refugees, which creates a potential for confusion and duplication.
Kephart says this issue could be easily resolved by following the 9/11 Commission’s previous recommendation for implementing a biometric-based identity number for the entire immigration system.