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Trump Might Make Tourists Hand Over Their Phones and Passwords

The White House is considering new "extreme vetting" measures for anyone who visits the US.

by Drew Schwartz
04 April 2017, 12:15am

Photo by Donna Burton, courtesy of U.S. Customs and Border Protection via Flickr

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

Donald Trump's travel ban has been temporarily blocked not once but twice by federal judges, and his administration hasn't stopped looking for sweeping, aggressive new ways to tighten security at the nation's borders. This might mean going so far as to ask all visitors to the US for their phones, social media passwords, financial records, and more, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The amped-up screening protocol—which could potentially include grilling visitors about their ideology—might apply to people across the globe, even those from long-standing US allies like Australia, the UK, and France, whose citizens can travel fairly freely to America thanks to Visa Waiver Program.

Additionally, according to Trump administration officials who spoke to the Journal anonymously, the US might subject visa applicants to more stringent security reviews and require embassies abroad to spend more time conducting interviews with applicants.

"If there is any doubt about a person's intentions coming to the United States, they should have to overcome—really and truly prove to our satisfaction—that they are coming for legitimate reasons," Gene Hamilton, an adviser to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, told the Journal.

Trump has been preaching "extreme vetting" since he was a Republican primary candidate, but mostly he's focused on refugees from the Middle East and undocumented immigrants who illegally crossed the southern US border. If the procedures described by the Journal's reporting become reality, they will affect a much broader group of people, including many tourists—who already may be avoiding coming to America.

Could looking at all this information help weed out the "bad hombres" that Trump has spent his entire short political career denouncing? Maybe. But Leon Rodriguez, who led the US Citizenship and Immigration Services under Barack Obama, told the Journal that it was far from a silver bullet.

"The real bad guys will get rid of their phones. They'll show up with a clean phone," Rodriguez said. "Over time, the utility of the exercise will diminish."

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