Evan Vucci / AP
Hours after a suspected terrorist attack in New York left eight people dead and more than a dozen others injured Tuesday, President Trump said he ordered the Department of Homeland Security to step up its "extreme vetting" of people entering the US.
The suspect in the attack was reported to be a 29-year-old man from Uzbekistan who came to the US legally in 2010. He was shot and injured by a New York police officer and taken into custody.
"I have just ordered Homeland Security to step up our already Extreme Vetting Program," Trump tweeted Tuesday night. "Being politically correct is fine, but not for this!"
Tyler Houlton, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security, declined to comment on whether Trump had contacted the agency, referring all questions to the White House. The White House did not respond to questions about how vetting would be expanded. Trump also did not elaborate on what he had ordered.
Since taking office, Trump has sought to ban travel into the US from eight countries, most of which have large Muslim populations. As of this month, the ban has been temporarily put on hold by a judge — who said it “plainly discriminates based on nationality."
Even if it were in effect, it would not have applied to legal green card holders, according to previous administration explanations of the ban.
Saipov was a legal permanent resident and came to the US under the Diversity Visa Program, ABC News reported. In 2010, around 4,000 people from Uzbekistan came to the US under the program.
In 2016, Saipov paid a fine after failing to appear in court for a traffic violation, court records showed. He did not immediately appear to have any other criminal record, which could have threatened his immigration status.
The day before the attack, White House chief of staff John Kelly discussed the administration's views on extreme vetting. In an interview with Fox News' Laura Ingraham, Kelly said the goal was to make sure people weren't coming into the US under a false identity.
"Extreme vetting is, we simply interview people and have to satisfy ourselves that the person we're talking to is indeed the person who they claim," Kelly said.
"It's very tough to do in some cases, there are no records," Ingraham replied.
Supporters of the travel ban have argued it should bar refugees from Syria and other conflict zones, who cannot provide birth certificates or other records proving their identity.
"And frankly impossible to do in some cases," Kelly said.
Grace Wyler contributed reporting.