Extreme Vetting? A Terrifying Thought

thought police

Extreme Vetting by Mike Licht.

Extreme vetting. It has become a euphemism, but what does it really mean? From all of the hype, it sounds as if it steps clearly beyond the bounds of our Constitution. How many trips across these Constitutional boundaries do we allow Trump to go?

Trump and his surrogates keep going on and on about ‘extreme vetting.’ I must say that the images that come to mind are frightening, illegal, and I would hope un-American. It is a phrase meant to inspire fear. particularly given the tone in which it is almost always said. The video below is from prior to the election and credited to USA Today:

What we have heard from some of those detained when Trump’s surprise ban went into effect, is that they were interrogated (sometimes for hours) and among the questions was how they felt about President Trump. Luckily, there is a stay on that ban at this moment, but the lives of tens of thousands of people hang in the balance.

The truth is that the United States already had a relatively ‘extreme vetting’ in place. The visa process for many has gone on for years. Even those who served with the US military in Iraq, and who are subsequently targets in their own country, have been restricted and delayed repeatedly (this is shameful in my opinion).  Here is the immigration process for REFUGEE entry PRIOR to Trump’s extreme additions (at least part of which seems to be an ideology and loyalty test, and gives a Christian preference):

refugee screening process


On top of the above, SYRIAN refugees went through ADDITIONAL processing (which can take two years or more):

1. Registration with the United Nations.

2. Interview with the United Nations.

3. Refugee status granted by the United Nations.

4. Referral for resettlement in the United States.

The United Nations decides if the person fits the definition of a refugee and whether to refer the person to the United States or to another country for resettlement. Only the most vulnerable are referred, accounting for less than than 1 percent of refugees worldwide. Some people spend years waiting in refugee camps.

5. Interview with State Department contractors.

6. First background check.

7. Higher-level background check for some.

8. Another background check.

The refugee’s name is run through law enforcement and intelligence databases for terrorist or criminal history. Some go through a higher-level clearance before they can continue. A third background check was introduced in 2008 for Iraqis but has since been expanded to all refugees ages 14 to 65.

9. First fingerprint screening; photo taken.

10. Second fingerprint screening.

11. Third fingerprint screening.

The refugee’s fingerprints are screened against F.B.I. and Homeland Security databases, which contain watch list information and past immigration encounters, including if the refugee previously applied for a visa at a United States embassy. Fingerprints are also checked against those collected by the Defense Department during operations in Iraq.

12. Case reviewed at United States immigration headquarters.

13. Some cases referred for additional review.

Syrian applicants must undergo these two additional steps. Each is reviewed by a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services refugee specialist. Cases with “national security indicators” are given to the Homeland Security Department’s fraud detection unit.

14. Extensive, in-person interview with Homeland Security officer.

Most of the interviews with Syrians have been done in Jordan and Turkey.

15. Homeland Security approval is required.

16. Screening for contagious diseases.

17. Cultural orientation class.

18. Matched with an American resettlement agency.

19. Multi-agency security check before leaving for the United States.

Because of the long amount of time between the initial screening and departure, officials conduct a final check before the refugee leaves for the United States.

20. Final security check at an American airport.

Sources: State Department; Department of Homeland Security; Center for American Progress; U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants; Refugee Council USA , and NY Times

So what might Trump add: I am afraid that the vision that comes to my mind is similar to Dave Granlund’s below:

extreme vetting

Cartoon by Dave Granlund. Politicalcartoons.com. Republished here with license approval.


  1. snoeman says

    I’ve read through the graphic you depicted from the Dept. of State on the screening process before To my wholly inexpert eye, it looks pretty comprehensive and thorough at a high level, although I’m sure there are plenty of devils lurking in the details.
    I mean, what more could you meaningfully do that would be “extreme” and get better results? There have been zero deaths attributable to refugees or immigrants from the seven countries since the mid-70s. Are we trying for fewer than that?

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    Aw c’mon, Dave Granland – do you really think the Bannon/Trump plan includes comfy padded chairs like that?

  3. brucegee1962 says

    It’s clear that the current Extreme Vetting is inadequate, because it was designed while a Democrat was in the White House. Ditto with how we know Obamacare was a failure, and why most EPA regulations are unnecessary (even the ones passed by Republicans). Also, we know that Republicans are better than Democrats because so many Democratic programs are inadequate. It’s a lovely circle of rage.

  4. Peter the Mediocre says

    I sort off assumed that “extreme vetting” included waterboarding, at a minimum. Our new POTUS seems in favor of those things, even though the evidence says they don’t actually work to produce reliable information, and occasionally people die.

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