The United States administration has decided to tighten screening of visa applications. In four memos issued by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson over the past two weeks, the government has asked its diplomatic missions abroad to identify those who need increased scrutiny and also introduced a “mandatory social media check” for any applicant who has ever been to a region controlled by the Islamic State group, Reuters reported on Friday.
The memos have instructions on how to implement President Donald Trump’s revised ban on immigrants from six Muslim-majority countries. In one of these dated March 17, the heads of all diplomatic missions have been asked to “develop a list of criteria identifying sets of post applicant populations warranting increased scrutiny”.
Both Republicans and Democrats had called for social media screening. The Obama administration had also launched a pilot programme, but had failed to ascertain the effectiveness of such inspections, according to The Verge.
Immigration attorneys, however, feel that this enhanced scrutiny may lengthen the visa processing time. “There’s so much social media out there. It is not something you can do on a timely basis,” Anne Richard, a US assistant secretary of state in the previous administration, told Reuters.
Trump has maintained that the US needed stronger borders and “extreme vetting” . The president has defended his executive order and reiterated that it was “not a Muslim ban”. But the restrictions brought in by his move had wreaked havoc on immigrant families, especially those with valid visas.
Protests had been launched across the country, including at airports, against the travel ban. His executive order had been criticised by politicians, activists, immigration advocates and even United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.