WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump has ordered the government to create a plan to establish a "National Vetting Center" to centralize the work of agencies that scrutinize foreign nationals immigrating to or visiting the U.S.
The policy would realize Trump's promise during his campaign to enact "extreme vetting" of people seeking to enter the country.
The center will be housed within the Department of Homeland Security and senior staff from the State Department and Justice Department will be assigned to the operation, according to a presidential memo Trump signed Tuesday at the White House. Federal officials have six months to submit a plan for the center to Trump for his approval.
"The Federal Government's current vetting efforts are ad hoc, which impedes our ability to keep up with today's threats," White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
Trump has sought to highlight instances of immigrant crime in an effort to push lawmakers to tighten restrictions on who can migrate to the country.
During at an event Tuesday focused on the impact of the MS-13 gang, Trump said that "not another country in the world has the stupidity of laws that we do when it comes to immigration" and suggested he'd be willing to shut down the federal government if lawmakers did not approve new limits he's demanded, including a wall on the border with Mexico.
The president also focused on the gang during his State of the Union address last month, saying the group "took advantage of glaring loopholes in our laws to enter the country as unaccompanied alien minors."
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who led Tuesday's MS-13 meeting at the White House, said in a statement that the vetting center would help "keep terrorists, violent criminals, and other dangerous individuals from reaching our shores."
But a human rights advocacy group expressed concern the new center could be used for racial profiling.
"We already rigorously vet people traveling to the U.S., so it is unclear what value such a center would add," Faiza Patel, co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's School of Law's Liberty & National Security Program, said in a statement. "In all likelihood it is simply another means of implementing the administration's unnecessary and discriminatory policies, such as so-called 'extreme vetting,' which use a thin pretense of national security concern to keep Muslims and people of color out of the country."
(c)2018 Bloomberg News
Visit Bloomberg News at www.bloomberg.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.