Vetting Refugees: Is Our Screening Process Adequate, Humane, Culturally Appropriate?

Federal Lawyer, May 2017

8 Pages Posted: 22 May 2017  

Sabrineh Ardalan

Harvard Law School

Date Written: May 21, 2017


As President Trump acknowledged in his February 16, 2017, press conference, the United States has robust procedures in place to vet refugees and asylum seekers. Any changes to the asylum and refugee processing system should thus promote the rule of law, safeguard the consistent application of screening measures, and ensure the fair and equitable treatment of applications for protection, without regard to an individual’s country of origin. The March 6, 2017 Executive Order, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” however, attempts to suspend the refugee resettlement program and reduce the number of refugees admitted to the United States in direct contravention of U.S. legal and moral obligations to protect those fleeing persecution and fearing return to torture. This article first provides a brief history of this country’s long-standing commitment to refugee protection. Next, it describes the legal standard applied in determining whether an individual is eligible for refugee protection, including bars to protection under U.S. law. The article then provides an overview of the extensive screening procedures already in place to address national security concerns. Finally, the article concludes with a discussion of challenges related to credibility and corroboration, including issues with trust, translation, trauma, time, resources, and other hurdles, all of which must be considered as part of any effort to change the system.

Keywords: refugees, security, screening, executive orders, asylum law

Suggested Citation

Ardalan, Sabrineh, Vetting Refugees: Is Our Screening Process Adequate, Humane, Culturally Appropriate? (May 21, 2017). Federal Lawyer, May 2017. Available at SSRN:

Sabrineh Ardalan (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

6 Everett Street
Wasserstein Hall 3103
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-384-7504 (Phone)
617-495-8595 (Fax)

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