U.S. Department of of Homeland Security Secretary Kirsten Nielsen participates as U.S. President Donald Trump hosts a law enforcement roundtable on the MS-13 gang violence at the White House on Tuesday. Photo by Chris Kleponis/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 6 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump signed a memorandum Tuesday to establish vetting centers for individuals attempting to enter the United States.
The National Vetting Center will be led by the Department of Homeland Security to help coordinate the efforts of departments and agencies to better identify individuals seeking to enter the country who present a threat to national security, border security, homeland security, or public safety, the White House said in a statement.
"The federal government's current vetting efforts are ad hoc, which impedes our ability to keep up with today's threats," the statement said. "The NVC will better coordinate these activities in a central location, enabling officials to further leverage critical intelligence and law enforcement information to identify terrorists, criminals, and other nefarious actors trying to enter and remain within our country."
Earlier Tuesday, Trump bemoaned the "stupidity" of U.S. immigration laws at a roundtable with law enforcement officials to address the MS-13 gang.
Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen opened the discussion by highlighting legal barriers to keeping out and removing MS-13, short for Mara Salvatrucha, and other gang members, including "catch and release" laws, which Trump said are "unique" to the United States.
"Not another country in the world has the stupidity of laws that we do when it comes to immigration," Trump said. "This isn't politics, this isn't Republican and Democrat, this is common sense. So, it has to be taken care of."
The event featured law enforcement officials telling stories about their experience combating the El Salvador-based MS-13, which has more than 30,000 members worldwide including 10,000 in the United States, and detailing their successes and failures.
During his State of the Union address Trump accused MS-13 of taking advantage of "glaring loopholes in our laws to enter the country as unaccompanied alien minors," which he has cited as a reason for more stringent immigration laws and the construction of a border wall between the United States and Mexico.
"Whatever they want to come through they come through," Trump said. "We don't have the wall we're never going to solve this problem."
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Francis Cissna said gang members can't be removed from the United States "merely because they're a gang member" and noted gang membership isn't a disqualifying characteristic applying for citizenship, which Trump called a "horrendous loophole."
Trump also said there was a lack of cooperation from Democrats, saying their policies prevent the issue of immigration from being resolved.
"Everything you do is illegal. You can't touch. You can't do anything," Trump said.
The president added he would welcome the looming government shutdown if it led to a deal that would resolve the issue, although senators appeared to be nearing a deal Tuesday.
"I'd love to see a shut down if we can't get this stuff taken care of," he said."If we have to shut it down because the Democrats don't want safety ... let's shut it down."