The Trump administration is developing new ways to vet people coming into the United States as a deadline in the President’s controversial travel ban nears, officials said Tuesday.
“Each of the opportunities that the US government has to interview and/or vet potential inbound travelers is being reviewed,” acting Customs and Border Protection Deputy Commissioner Ronald Vitiello said at AFCEA’s Homeland Security Conference in Washington on Tuesday.
“Looking at things like social media, looking at things like smart phones, those kinds of windows, if you will, into people’s backgrounds and their activity,” he added.
The Department of Homeland Security and the State Department are evaluating all the “opportunities” for the US to assess potential travelers to the country,
The ban on travel to the US for individuals from six Muslim-majority countries, allowed to take effect by the Supreme Court in June, was ordered to be in effect for 90 days, during which the administration would assess vetting procedures and whether they’re secure enough. The executive order also requires reports on its effectiveness.
That clock is set to run out before the end of this month, and the administration has not indicated yet what it will do next.
Vitiello wouldn’t say what the results of the review have been, but said “there will be changes” put into place from it.
The career Border Patrol official said that the administration is assessing “the whole continuum” of the process by which an individual is granted access to the US.
Since Trump signed the executive order in January, the administration has said it was used some authorities not blocked by the courts to change vetting procedures behind the scenes, but because of security considerations agencies have not been required to make those public.
A key component of the procedures, Vitiello said, was working with foreign partners. The US gives other countries advice and resources like better technology, best practices and information in the hopes of raising other countries’ security. In return, those nations share intelligence and information with the US about potential dangers traveling to the US or other areas of the world.
Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Tom Homan, who appeared on the same panel, said the agency is working “hip to hip with CBP” on vetting and is looking to expand upon its international presence for visa screening. He said ICE agents help collect information on visa applicants, scraping social media, and give that information to the investigators weighing the visa.
He also said the agency can do more to continue tracking approved individuals when they get to the US.
“Another thing we’re working … is continuous vetting,” Homan said. “Once they get a visa into this country, the vetting shouldn’t stop. What are they doing six months from now? What are they involved in six months from now? That’s a big piece of this.”