After a year on the campaign trail, by now everyone has heard about Donald Trump’s plan for building a wall along the Mexico border. Then there’s his proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S. But wait! Just like a late night infomercial — there’s more!
On Monday, the Republican presidential nominee suggested even stricter immigration controls, or as he called it, “extreme, extreme vetting,” to weed out (and keep out) would-be immigrants that don’t share “American values.” But what does that mean?
Well, as he explains it, there would be some sort of testing to determine whether a prospective immigrant’s beliefs are in line with America’s values regarding gender equality, gay rights and more. Which raises the question: How would this be possible when many Americans born and raised here in the U.S. don’t share the same “values”?
Trump supporters are generally on board with his past immigration proposals but the nominee’s campaign hopes this new stance will attract undecided voters who are concerned about terrorism, but feel uncomfortable with his seemingly hardhearted views about Mexican and Muslim immigrants. After all, this new policy is just intended to ensure would-be immigrants are of one mind with the American people and are prepared to “embrace a tolerant American society.”
That may sound reasonable but is that really all there is to it? Well, one concern is that until this screening test is created, Trump is proposing that the U.S. temporarily suspend immigration from countries that have been known to harbor terrorists. The problem is how — and who —decides what countries would be included in the ban? Trump’s said if he becomes president, he would task the Department of Homeland Security with identifying nations “where adequate screening is impossible, and stop processing visas from those areas.” But it’s unclear whether Trump’s proposal would also apply to tourists.
As it turns out, the U.S. already conducts a thorough vetting of potential immigrants. Trump likes to boast that he’s not a Washington “insider,” so the question is whether he aware of this existing process? Or is his plan significantly different? At first look, it doesn’t appear to be.
Among the other issues are these: how do you determine the veracity of an applicant’s questionnaire? Basically, they can answer questions however they choose. How deeply does the U.S. investigate each response? With roughly 6 million immigration applications submitted annually, that would be a tall order indeed. This is especially true since many of the questions Trump proposes are opinion questions regarding a potential immigrant’s feelings on subjects such as gay marriage, in order to determine if they’re a “match” with our American values. But some Americans are for gay marriage and others are against it.
And even if potential immigrants do answer these question honestly, does that really mean that they’d be more or less apt to be a danger to the U.S.? Maybe the one about having terrorist leanings would, but what would-be terrorist would check that box yes?
The specifics concerning the implementation of this new proposal are pretty vague at this stage of the game. For instance:
- Who would write these questions?
- Who would analyze them?
- Would the screening apply to all visitors, regardless of the duration of their stay?
- Would extreme vetting slow down the visa process significantly?
- If so, how would that affect our economy and the people applying to come to the U.S. for employment or education?
- Which countries or people would be targeted for screening?
In the meantime, both presidential candidates —Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump — have been scheduled for classified briefings with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). The discussion is expected to focus on possible current and ongoing terror threats as well as other developing global concerns to ensure a smooth transition as the new president takes office.
It’s possible this information will help Donald Trump better define how — and whether — to proceed with his plan if he finds himself the one sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office.