March 26, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On March 23, the New York Times reported, “Diplomatic cables sent last week from Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson to all American embassies instructed consular officials to broadly increase scrutiny. It was the first evidence of the ‘extreme vetting’ Mr. Trump promised during the presidential campaign.”
Exempt from this “extreme vetting” are 38 countries. Almost all of these are in Europe, plus a few others including South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan (for some time, short-term visitors to the U.S. from those 38 countries have been exempt from applying for visas at U.S. embassies, while everyone else is required to do that before visiting the U.S.). Included in the new policies: the rest of the world, including all of Africa and the Middle East, and almost all of Latin America and Asia.
Rather than document explicit instructions to embassies to target Muslims, Tillerson’s cables use wording like “Consular officers should not hesitate to refuse any case presenting security concerns.” And they instruct U.S. consulates to come up with “sets of post-applicant populations warranting increased scrutiny.”
People singled out for this scrutiny are to be questioned about not only their travel history, but all their addresses for 15 years; and all phone numbers, email addresses, and social media handles they have used in the past five years. Greg Siskind, an immigration lawyer, told the Washington Post that physicians, university professors, and researchers will face delays or denials if they are from “certain countries, or religions.” [note: religions] And Siskind told the Washington Post that he thinks part of the investigation people will be subjected to is aimed at building databases of connections between people based on their Facebook friends and Twitter followers.
Speaking of these directives, Stephen Legomsky, chief counsel of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services during the Obama administration, told the Washington Post, “This strikes me as an end run around the judicial injunctions... The [federal court] injunctions [against Trump’s Muslim ban] prevent the implementation of a travel ban by executive order. But nothing in them specifically prohibits new rules on visa denials overseas.”