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Expecting Trump action, US suspends refugee resettlement interviews

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The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has temporarily halted trips by staff to interview refugees abroad as it prepares for a likely shakeup of refugee policy by President Donald Trump, two sources with knowledge of the decision said on Thursday.

The decision effectively amounts to a pause in future refugee admissions, given that the interviews are a crucial step in an often years-long process.

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The DHS leadership’s decision to halt the interview trips was communicated to those involved in the U.S. refugee admission process on Wednesday, one of the sources said.

It means that though Trump has not yet ordered a temporary halt to the refugee program, future admissions are likely to be delayed.

Trump is expected to sign an executive order that would include a temporary ban on all refugees, and a suspension of visas for citizens of Syria and six other Middle Eastern and African countries.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters on Thursday that Trump could sign several executive orders on Friday, but that the nature of those had not been decided yet.

Becca Heller, director of the International Refugee Assistance Project at the New York-based Urban Justice Center, said she was informed of the decision to halt the overseas interviews by several people in and outside of government.

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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which conducts the refugee interviews, did not respond to a request for comment.

DHS officers regularly visit countries such as Jordan, Malaysia, El Salvador, Kenya and Ethiopia to interview refugees seeking to enter the United States. It is usually one of the last steps in the refugee resettlement process.

Heller said the decision to halt the overseas interviews would cause delays in refugee processing even if Trump decides to maintain the refugee program or re-start it after a temporary closure.

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“In the past, when we’ve frozen the refugee program to re-examine security issues, it’s been really important to continue processing even if you can’t admit people, because processing times in this program can be two to three years,” Heller said.

During the election campaign, Trump decried former President Barack Obama’s decision to increase the number of Syrian refugees admitted to the United States over fears that those fleeing the country’s civil war would carry out attacks.

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Obama approved allowing up to 110,000 refugees in the 2017 fiscal year, compared with 85,000 the prior year.

Trump said during the election campaign that there was no proper system to vet refugees.

In addition to the interviews, refugees hoping to be resettled in the United States undergo extensive security screening by multiple U.S. agencies as well as vetting by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

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(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Kieran Murray and Leslie Adler)


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After Trump: No free pass for Republicans — they own this nightmare

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With the impeachment inquiry leveling up this month as public hearings begin, and with an election that might actually be the end of Donald Trump now less than a year away, the campaign to let Trump's Republican allies — even the most villainous offenders — move on and pretend this never happened is already underway.

This article first appeared in Salon.

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As climate crisis-fueled fires rage, fears grow of an ‘uninhabitable’ California

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‘A profound emoluments clause violation’: Andrew Napolitano slams Trump’s hosting the G7 at Doral

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In the wake of acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney's announcement this Thursday that next year's G7 summit will be hosted at President Trump's Doral golf club, Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano pointed out that Trump would be violating the emoluments clause if he were to go through with the move.

At the outset of the segment, Fox Business Network anchor Neil Cavuto said that the announcement is "effectively saying the president has given himself this contract."

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