WASHINGTON — President Trump resumed refugee admissions into the United States on Tuesday, signing an executive order that lifted his previous seven-month moratorium and replacing it with what he has called "extreme vetting."
The executive order allows immigration officials to restart the Refugee Admissions Program, but with "special measures" to screen refugees "whose entry continues to pose potential threats to the security and welfare of the United States."
Those measures include more in-depth interviews of families seeking refugee status and biometric information to be checked against a various federal watch lists and databases.
The move comes as the previous moratorium — originally expected to last 120 days but extended by President Trump in June — was set to expire on Tuesday.
The order does not affect other aspects of Trump's previous travel bans, which include a categorical ban on immigrants and refugees from some Muslim-majority countries. Trump has signed three versions of that ban, with the most recent being blocked last week by federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland.
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke said the new screening measures "provide an opportunity for the United States to welcome those in need into our country, while ensuring a safer, more secure homeland.”
Still, Trump has already taken action to ensure that the number of refugees will be the lowest in decades. Last month, he signed a separate directive setting the annual refugee cap at 45,000 — the lowest annual limit since Congress passed the Refugee Act in 1980.
President Obama had increased the cap to 110,000, citing a worldwide refugee crisis driven by the Syrian civil war and unrest throughout North Africa and the Middle East. But Trump halted the program, saying he was worried it could allow terrorists into the United States.