President Trump Creates a National Vetting Center

President Trump signed an order February 6, 2017, establishing a National Vetting Center to investigate new immigrants’ admissibility to the United States.

The National Vetting Center’s mission is to collect, share and use information about people entering the United States, with the objective of identifying individuals who may be a security threat. The center will be operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), with input from the Departments of Defense, Justice, and State, and other intelligence agencies.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said that DHS has implemented tighter screening and tougher vetting for everyone entering the United States. Nielsen said the Center will support work by U.S. intelligence agencies and DHS to prevent criminals and terrorists from entering the country. The National Vetting Center will help agencies and departments coordinate their use of intelligence in the vetting process.

Faiza Patel, co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty & National Security Program, said that it was unclear what value would be added by the new center, and there was a risk that the National Vetting Center would be used to implement policies such as the administration’s practice of “extreme vetting” which many see as codewords for discrimination against Muslim applicants.

Secretary Nielsen noted that President Trump’s order directs the vetting center to follow civil rights and privacy laws in its use of data.