The Trump administration’s changes to U.S. visa policies have made headlines around the globe, and the latest set of so-called “extreme vetting” visa policies may require visitors to hand over their phones and passwords. The initial set of travel rules, which involved the so-called “Muslim ban,” affected visitors from several Muslim-majority countries, but it sounds like this newer set of visa policies will be much more far-reaching.
New visa policies may require sharing of digital information
Sources reportedly told The Wall Street Journal that travelers wishing to enter the U.S. may soon be forced to share digital information with customs agents in order to receive a visa. This may include sharing their passwords and even their mobile phones, all as part of the “extreme vetting” procedures the Trump administration wishes to put in place.
According to the WSJ, a senior official said that the new visa policies might require travelers to let customs agents peruse the contacts in their phones and possibly study other information the devices contain. Officials reportedly want to learn about the people incoming travelers are communicating with and get a list of what websites they visit. They also want to be allowed to ask for travelers’ Internet passwords so they can see what they do online.
The newspaper quotes a senior official with the Dept. of Homeland Security as saying, “What you can get on the average person’s phone can be invaluable.”
Travelers’ ideologies may be questioned
The WSJ also reports that the new visa policies could result in travelers being subjected to intrusive questioning of their beliefs and worldviews. The questions said to be under consideration for the so-called “ideological test” include one about whether they believe in so-called “honor killings,” how women should be treated in society, and how they feel about the “sanctity of human life.”
Gene Hamilton, a senior counselor for Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, reportedly said that if they have any doubts about why someone wants to enter the U.S., that person will have to “really and truly prove to our satisfaction that they are coming for legitimate reasons.
Trump’s attempts to keep travelers from certain Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. have been blocked by the nation’s courts twice, but these new visa policies could apply to a much longer list of countries. Even travelers from the 38 countries that belong to the Visa Waiver Program might be subjected to the new extreme vetting policies, according to the WSJ. The list could include the U.K., Australia, Japan, and several European countries, including France and Germany.
A lose/ lose scenario on extreme vetting
If the proposed extreme vetting measures are enacted, they could have serious repercussions. The European Union has already fired the next shot in a sort of visa war last month by voting to end visa-free travel for Americans.
Unfortunately, this is one area the much-loathed President can’t win in. On one hand, he’s angering most of the world by invading the privacy of everyone who wishes to enter the U.S., and on the other, people will be even more outraged if another major terrorist attack occurs on his watch. And we can pretty much guarantee that if an attack occurs now after all of these attempts to tightly close the borders, people will blame Trump, either for not doing enough or for doing so much that he just raised terrorists‘ ire even more.
This is why sensible people don’t want to be in the White House.