Most Republicans in Congress have been either quiet or generally supportive of Donald Trump’s controversial new executive order barring US entry for natives of seven Muslim-majority countries. That includes House Speaker Paul Ryan, who denounced the idea of a Muslim ban during the campaign only to turn around and back this decision.
There are, however, some exceptions. Below are 16 Republicans who have criticized Trump’s immigration order since Friday. Note that most of them support the idea of sharper travel restrictions from certain countries. They’ve just attacked Trump’s order as overly broad and poorly executed — noting, for instance, that it was catching green card holders and causing chaos at airports all day Saturday. (On Sunday, the Department of Homeland Security finally said green-card holders could enter the US.)
Some of the critics, like Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), are merely calling on Trump to review and revise parts of the order, whereas Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham had much broader complaints, saying “we fear this executive order may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security.”
1) Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA)
Dent, whose district has one of the largest Syrian refugee populations in the country, called on Trump to halt the immigration order on Saturday afternoon, telling the New York Times: “I urge the administration to halt enforcement of this order until a more thoughtful and deliberate policy can be instated.”
Dent later expanded on his comments in an interview with the Washington Post: “This is ridiculous. I guess I understand what his intention is, but unfortunately the order appears to have been rushed through without full consideration. You know, there are many, many nuances of immigration policy that can be life or death for many innocent, vulnerable people around the world.”
2) Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
Flake singled out the fact that Trump’s order was so broad that up to 500,000 green card holders — permanent residents of the United States — would be barred from returning to America if they went abroad:
President Trump and his administration are right to be concerned about national security, but it's unacceptable when even legal permanent residents are being detained or turned away at airports and ports of entry. Enhancing long term national security requires that we have a clear-eyed view of radical Islamic terrorism without ascribing radical Islamic terrorist views to all Muslims.
3) Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
The two senators released a joint statement on Sunday calling the order a “self-inflicted wound” and saying that “it sends a signal, intended or not, that America does not want Muslims coming into our country.” And: “we fear this executive order may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security”:
Our government has a responsibility to defend our borders, but we must do so in a way that makes us safer and upholds all that is decent and exceptional about our nation.
It is clear from the confusion at our airports across the nation that President Trump’s executive order was not properly vetted. We are particularly concerned by reports that this order went into effect with little to no consultation with the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security.
Such a hasty process risks harmful results. We should not stop green-card holders from returning to the country they call home. We should not stop those who have served as interpreters for our military and diplomats from seeking refuge in the country they risked their lives to help. And we should not turn our backs on those refugees who have been shown through extensive vetting to pose no demonstrable threat to our nation, and who have suffered unspeakable horrors, most of them women and children.
Ultimately, we fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism. At this very moment, American troops are fighting side-by-side with our Iraqi partners to defeat ISIL. But this executive order bans Iraqi pilots from coming to military bases in Arizona to fight our common enemies. Our most important allies in the fight against ISIL are the vast majority of Muslims who reject its apocalyptic ideology of hatred. This executive order sends a signal, intended or not, that America does not want Muslims coming into our country. That is why we fear this executive order may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security.
4) Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN)
On Sunday evening, the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee put out a statement calling the order “poorly implemented” and urging Trump to “make appropriate revisions.” That said, Corker did want “many of these programs” ultimately reinstated:
"We all share a desire to protect the American people, but this executive order has been poorly implemented, especially with respect to green card holders. The administration should immediately make appropriate revisions, and it is my hope that following a thorough review and implementation of security enhancements that many of these programs will be improved and reinstated."
5) Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE)
Sasse, a Trump critic throughout the campaign, issued a statement criticizing the order as “too broad” — and expressed worry that it sent the dangerous message that “the US sees all Muslims as jihadis”:
The President is right to focus attention on the obvious fact that borders matter. At the same time, while not technically a Muslim ban, this order is too broad. There are two ways to lose our generational battle against jihadism by losing touch with reality. The first is to keep pretending that jihadi terrorism has no connection to Islam or to certain countries. That’s been a disaster. And here's the second way to fail: If we send a signal to the Middle East that the U.S. sees all Muslims as jihadis, the terrorist recruiters win by telling kids that America is banning Muslims and that this is America versus one religion. Both approaches are wrong, and both will make us less safe. Our generational fight against jihadism requires wisdom.
6) Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI)
On Twitter, the libertarian-leaning Amash criticized the order as an overreach, arguing that Trump should work with Congress to change immigration policy. Amash also singled out the fact that the order could target green card holders and argued that the list of countries targeted were “more about politics than safety”:
1/ Like Pres. Obama's executive actions on immigration, Pres. Trump's executive order overreaches and undermines our constitutional system.— Justin Amash (@justinamash) January 28, 2017
2/ It's not lawful to ban immigrants on basis of nationality. If the president wants to change immigration law, he must work with Congress.— Justin Amash (@justinamash) January 28, 2017
3/ The president's denial of entry to lawful permanent residents of the United States (green card holders) is particularly troubling.— Justin Amash (@justinamash) January 28, 2017
4/ Green card holders live in the United States as our neighbors and serve in our Armed Forces. They deserve better.— Justin Amash (@justinamash) January 28, 2017
5/ We must do much more to properly vet refugees, but a blanket ban represents an extreme approach not consistent with our nation's values.— Justin Amash (@justinamash) January 28, 2017
6/ While EO allows admittance of immigrants, nonimmigrants, and refugees "on a case-by-case basis," arbitrariness would violate Rule of Law.— Justin Amash (@justinamash) January 28, 2017
7/ EO appears to be more about politics than safety. If concern is radicalism/terrorism, then what about Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and others?— Justin Amash (@justinamash) January 28, 2017
8/ Finally, we can't effectively fight homegrown Islamic radicalism by perpetuating “us vs. them” mindset that terrorists use to recruit.— Justin Amash (@justinamash) January 28, 2017
9/ We must ensure U.S. remains dedicated to Constitution, Rule of Law, and liberty. Capitalism creates prosperity and improves assimilation.— Justin Amash (@justinamash) January 28, 2017
7) Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)
Collins said that Trump’s order “is overly broad and implementing it will be immediately problematic.” Here are her comments to the Maine Sun-Journal:
[Collins] said, for example, “it could interfere with the immigration of Iraqis who worked for American forces in Iraq as translators and bodyguards — people who literally saved the lives of our troops and diplomats during the last decade and whose lives are at risk if they remain in Iraq.
8) Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH)
On Sunday, Portman said on CNN that he supported the two federal judges who had stepped in and temporarily stayed the order, blocking deportations of those who had already arrived in the country. “This was an extreme vetting program that wasn't properly vetted," he said.
In particular, he pointed to the fact that a doctor at the Cleveland Clinic — a citizen of Sudan who had been traveling back to the United States — had been detained in New York on Saturday and sent back to the Middle East. Portman said she had already been fully vetted and shouldn’t have been blocked.
Portman went on to say that he supported tighter travel restrictions, arguing that there is “not adequate screening, particularly on our visa waiver program, so I do think we need to tighten things up.” But, he added, Congress should be involved in changing the policies here, not just the White House: “We ought to be part of it. We've been working on this.”
9) Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Here’s Alexander’s statement — he notes that the order isn’t “explicitly a religious test,” but “it comes close”:
The vetting proposal itself needed more vetting. More scrutiny of those traveling from war-torn countries to the United States is wise. But this broad and confusing order seems to ban legal, permanent residents with "green cards," and might turn away Iraqis, for example, who were translators and helped save lives of American troops and who could be killed if they stay in Iraq. And while not explicitly a religious test, it comes close to one which is inconsistent with our American character.
10) Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA)
On Sunday, Newhouse put out a statement saying that the order was “needlessly disrupt[ing]” people’s lives and called on the administration to review it:
It is reasonable to conduct a review of prospective and existing visa holders and refugees to make sure they do not pose a security risk. However, the manner in which this Order is being implemented at airports and other points of entry appears that some innocent people, including some who have performed brave and valuable service to our anti-terror efforts, are having their lives needlessly disrupted.
I encourage the administration to review its order in consultation with its national security team to ensure our enforcement resources are being targeted where they can be most effective and to allow those law-abiding green card holders and visa holders who clearly aren't a threat to security to return to their jobs and communities here in America.
11) Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA)
Statement here: “The president’s Executive Order [goes] beyond the increased vetting actions that Congress has supported on a bipartisan basis and inexplicably applied to Green Card holders. This should be addressed and corrected expeditiously.”
12) Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY)
Statement here: “Our first role as the federal government is to protect our national security and I believe we need to work in Congress to reform and strengthen our visa vetting process. However, I oppose President Trump's rushed and overly broad Executive Order. On the House Armed Services Committee, I have advocated for Iraqi and Afghans who have served side by side as our allies to be prioritized to access visas.”
13) Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA)
"The president's policy entirely misses the mark," Fitzpatrick told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “The reality is, terrorism inspired by radicalism and hate is global in scope and, as such, requires a comprehensive response, not a purely regional focus. While serious actions are needed to protect our country, these must not be done in a way that singles out any specific nations or ethnicities."
14) Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
“I object to the suspension of visas from the seven named countries because we could have accomplished our objective of keeping our homeland safe by immediate implementation of more thorough screening procedures,” Ros-Lehtinen told the Miami Herald.
15) Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL)
US permanent residents shouldn't be detained, deported, or discriminated against. They've already been thoroughly vetted #executiveorders— Carlos Curbelo (@carloslcurbelo) January 29, 2017
A few other Republicans (like Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman and Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford) have put out more ambiguous statements that could be read as obliquely criticizing the order but don’t explicitly call out Trump.
Most Republicans are still silent or falling in line
But those opponents are still in the minority (at least so far). The GOP leadership in Congress has largely lined up behind Trump on this — or at least stayed very quiet.
It’s a stark contrast to the campaign, when Trump got a fair amount of pushback from his own party for proposing a ban on all Muslim immigration. In June 2016, Paul Ryan denounced that idea at a press conference: "I do not think it is reflective of our principles, not just as a party, but as a country. And I think the smarter way to go in all respects is to have a security test, not a religious test. I do not think a Muslim ban is in our country's interest.”
But Ryan has decided to support this latest order. Here was his statement on Friday:
Our number one responsibility is to protect the homeland. We are a compassionate nation, and I support the refugee resettlement program, but it’s time to reevaluate and strengthen the visa vetting process. This is why we passed bipartisan legislation in the wake of the Paris attacks to pause the intake of refugees. President Trump is right to make sure we are doing everything possible to know exactly who is entering our country.
So why the about-face? Ryan’s spokesperson AshLee Strong told the Post that Trump’s newest order was different from what he’d proposed on the trail: “This is not a religious test and it is not a ban on people of any religion.”
Technically, Trump’s executive order is different from his earlier proposal. It temporarily bars entry for immigrants and visa holders from seven Muslim-majority countries — Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen — rather than targeting all Muslim immigrants everywhere. But given that Rudy Giuliani is telling Fox News that this order came about because Trump wanted help crafting a legal “Muslim ban,” it’s hard not to read into the intent here. As Alexander notes: “While not explicitly a religious test, it comes close to one which is inconsistent with our American character.” And as McCain and Graham note, the order “sends a signal, intended or not, that America does not want Muslims coming into our country.”
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “I’m not going to make a blanket criticism of this effort,” arguing that he’d let the courts handle it. Dozens of other congressional Republicans have simply stayed silent. Others, like House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes, have been supportive. (No Democrats have come out in favor of the order — they’re uniformly opposed.)
And Vice President Mike Pence went from saying this on the campaign trail back in 2015...
Calls to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. are offensive and unconstitutional.— Governor Mike Pence (@GovPenceIN) December 8, 2015
To smiling and applauding the order when Trump signed it:
Today Trump abandoned brave Iraqi and Afghan interpreters who saved thousands of U.S. troops' lives. Mattis stood by smiling as he did so. pic.twitter.com/HTTvaNNktO— Brandon Friedman (@BFriedmanDC) January 28, 2017
As my colleague Jeff Stein points out, no one who’s been paying attention should be surprised by this — “the party has largely fallen in line behind their president ever since the election.”
- A detailed explainer on what Trump’s immigration order — which also includes a temporary ban on all refugees — actually does
- Trump’s immigration ban applies to up to 500,000 green card holders
- Donald Trump, the refugee ban, and the triumph of cruelty
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