Travel ban’s intent gets support from area’s congressmen

Published 6:26 pm Sunday, January 29, 2017

By Josh Bergeron

SALISBURY — There may be concern about implementation, but the area’s congressmen support the intent of President Donald Trump’s recent temporary travel ban for refugees and travelers from certain countries.

On Friday, Trump signed an executive order that banned people from seven countries in the Middle East and Africa from entering the U.S. for a period of 90 days. His order stops the admission of refugees into the U.S. for four months. It also indefinitely bars refugees from Syria.

In the aftermath of the executive order, travelers, including those with green cards, were detained at airports. Late night court orders aided those trapped in airports across the country. Still, confusion reigned as Trump’s executive order was implemented, prompting large protests in major cities.

Of Rowan’s members in Congress — representatives and senators — three of four issued public statements about Trump’s executive action. Reps. Richard Hudson, R-8, and Ted Budd, R-13, said they support Trump’s action. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., spoke about the issues addressed by the order rather than expressing an opinion about its specific contents. Tillis said the implementation of Trump’s order “should be refined,” a sentiment also expressed by Hudson.

“While the executive order does take immediate action aimed at tightening the refugee screening process, there is a lot of confusion surrounding the order, particularly given the instances of green card holders inexplicably being denied entry back into the United States,” Tillis said.

He said the order should be refined to ensure there aren’t unintended consequences that fail to make America safer. Hudson also said he wants to help clear up confusion for people with green cards who were denied entry into the U.S. However, Hudson expressed strong support for Trump’s executive action.

“At a time of grave security threats, President Trump is right to pause the flow of refugees from countries where terrorism is rampant until we can properly vet them and implement additional screening for individuals traveling to and from these countries,” Hudson said.

The countries included in Trump’s immigration ban are: Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Libya and Yemen. Another provision includes investigating whether to suspend a program that allows travelers from 38 countries to renew visas without an in-person interview.

Budd said he’s happy to see Trump following through on campaign promises. It’s “only common sense” to extensively vet every person coming from the countries specified in Trump’s order, Budd said.

Budd said “the media” has sensationalized the true contents of the order and expressed confidence that everyone detained as a result of the executive order would be “released by the time this article is printed.”

Commenting on Trump’s executive action, Tillis and Hudson both noted that FBI Director James Comey previously told Congress the U.S. lacks the capability to properly vet all Syrian refugees. Tillis said America should offer safety to refugees and be mindful “of the sad reality that radical Islamic terrorists are actively attempting to infiltrate refugee programs to enter western nations.”

While Tillis never explicitly said he supported Trump’s executive action, he called gaps in America’s ability to properly vet refugees “a significant vulnerability” and “a matter of national security.”

In 2015, Hudson authored a bill similar to Trump’s executive order. As the nation debated whether to accept refugees from Syria, a war-torn country, Hudson helped introduce the American SAFE Act of 2015. The bill’s introduction came days after terrorist attacks in Paris that killed or injured hundreds of people.

Hudson’s bill would’ve required refugees fleeing Iraq and Syria to receive an FBI background check. Refugees covered in Hudson’s bill couldn’t be admitted into the U.S. until after officials certify the person isn’t a security threat to the U.S.

His bill passed the U.S. House by a veto-proof margin but stalled in the Senate.

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., was traveling on Sunday in his role as Senate Intelligence Committee chairman. Burr’s office said he wouldn’t be able to provide a comment.

Unlike the Republican members of Congress who represent Rowan County, Democrats from North Carolina were starkly opposed to Trump’s order. On Sunday, Rep. Alma Adams, D-12, participated in a protest at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Adams said the ban fails to improve the national security.

“If anything, it will only embolden those who seek to do us harm,” Adams said. “We have a long and honored tradition of accepting refugees seeking safety after a thorough vetting process and this tradition should continue.”

In tweets posted Sunday afternoon, Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-1, called Trump’s order shameful. It “advances Islamophobia and plays into ISIS propaganda, putting American lives in danger,” Butterfield said.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.