New Security Requirements Will Keep Americans Safe
Nearly every day, along with other members of President Trump’s National Security team, I receive briefings on the current threats to our homeland -- they are real, they are pervasive, and they are constantly evolving. And while our security posture has greatly improved since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the simple fact remains that our enemies and adversaries are still dead set on harming the United States, its people, and our interests.
President Trump’s Executive Order, Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, was a historic step forward in bolstering our national security. As part of that order, the Department of Homeland Security and our interagency partners have worked to improve screening and vetting to ensure we keep terrorists, criminals, and other threat actors from entering our country, while facilitating the entry of peaceful people from around the world in a safe and responsible manner.
Above all else, the president and this administration are committed to our sworn duty to protect the United States.
Now for the first time in our nation’s history, we have set a baseline for other countries to cooperate with our government in the vetting of travelers and immigrants. These new requirements set a minimum standard for information sharing, including requiring foreign governments to work with us to ensure visitors to the United States are in fact who they say they are. We are also requiring those governments to share threat information regarding individuals who could pose a danger to our country.
These minimum requirements are common sense. If we cannot establish and confirm a traveler’s identity, we cannot determine whether they pose a risk upon entry. So we are mandating that our international partners issue more secure passports, report lost and stolen passport information to Interpol on a regular and timely basis, and share additional information, if necessary, to validate a traveler or immigration applicant’s identity.
We are also requiring that countries share information about dangerous individuals with the U.S. government. Nations who comply with these standards will identify serious criminals and provide us data on known or suspected terrorists. Moreover, we expect all countries to partner with the travel industry to ensure airlines and ship operators are not blocked from sharing essential information the U.S. government needs to screen travelers.
The good news is that the vast majority of countries in the world meet our new minimum baseline for sharing information. Under the president’s Executive Order, since July the Department of State has worked closely with nearly every foreign government to make sure they understand and comply with these information-sharing requirements. A number of countries that were not initially in compliance have made important changes, and in the process the United States has struck new agreements to receive terrorism information from countries that did not provide it before, and to get countries to step up travel document security to prevent fraud. Compliance by these countries is evidence that the president’s EO is already making Americans safer.
However, eight countries either have not made enough changes to meet our minimum baseline for information sharing, or have proven unable to effectively and consistently cooperate with the United States and mitigate internal terrorist threats. I have recommended, and the president has approved, restrictions put in place for these countries until they comply or the threat from these nations is lowered.
The restrictions are tough but are also tailored for each particular country. For some, immigrant visas are restricted, for other countries the president is placing restrictions on certain visitor and business visas to the United States.
First and foremost, these restrictions are essential for protecting our national security and public safety. At the same time, our ability to get other countries to comply with our baseline relies on the understanding that the baseline will be enforced, and that there will be consequences for non-compliance.
This is not a permanent prohibition on travelers from these places. As foreign governments agree to enhance cooperation, we will revisit these restrictions and consider lifting them as appropriate. Likewise, if other countries should fall out of compliance, or fail to meet minimum standards, their situation will be revisited as well. Until then, the restrictions currently in place are designed to protect the American people and to pressure noncompliant governments to take the action necessary to ensure the entry of their nationals is consistent with our national security.
This effort is one of several ways we are raising the bar of U.S. security across the board. Earlier this year, for instance, the Administration took decisive action to improve aviation security. We determined that security standards around the world were insufficient and varied too widely, putting travelers at risk. So we set a new baseline for flights headed to the United States. We required that all commercial flights coming into our country meet new requirements to guard against explosives, insider threats, and other dangers. These measures -- both seen and unseen -- have been some of the most significant aviation security enhancements since 9/11.
As worldwide terror threats continue to evolve, and as malicious actors and dangerous extremists continue to look for new ways to exploit our vast immigration system, we will continue to upgrade our capabilities, enhance our procedures, and improve our ability to review and vet applications.
The United States is serious about keeping foreign terrorists and criminals far from our shores. We are serious about improving our visa and immigration system. And we are serious about our responsibility to protect our people—and to put America’s security first.