Some Top Republicans in Congress Criticize Trump’s Refugee Policy

By NICHOLAS FANDOS

 Some top Republicans stepped up their criticism of President Trump’s newly enacted refugee policy on Sunday even as party leaders in Congress continued to show restraint.

Mr. Trump’s executive order, which targets Syrian refugees and all travelers from several predominantly Muslim nations, had drawn little dissent from Republicans initially even as Democrats denounced it and protests erupted around the country and the world.

But on Sunday, several members of Mr. Trump’s party said that the process, while initiated with the right intention, had been too hastily enacted and could backfire against U.S. interests.

Republican Senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina issued a statement that said Mr. Trump’s order was not properly vetted and could be seen as the United States turning its back on Muslims who had risked their lives to serve as interpreters for United States military and diplomats

“Ultimately, we fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism,” they said, adding “That is why we fear this executive order may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security.”

Mr. McCain also said the plan was carried out without proper consultation of American allies and that mistakenly lumped together the country’s adversaries, like Iran, with allies, like Iraq.

Republicans have largely supported Mr. Trump’s aggressive agenda on other matters, but in his first major decision on national security, he is finding uncharacteristic opposition from his party in the blush of his early days in office.

Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, likewise questioned the hastiness of the order’s rollout and called for a re-evaluation of the White House’s unilateral effort.

“You have an extreme vetting proposal that did not get the vetting it should have had,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” adding that Congress should be part of finding a solution.

“In my view, we ought to all take a deep breath and come up with something that makes sense for our national security and again for this notion that America has always been a welcoming home for refugees and immigrants,” he said.

A handful of Republicans, including Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Senator Susan Collins of Maine, had offered similarly cautious criticism of the measure on Saturday.

But if further frustration was felt, it was not widely publicized. The Republican leadership has been more circumspect about the order, which resembles a bill passed by the House last year with widespread Republican support.

Speaker Paul D. Ryan released a statement on Friday praising the order by Mr. Trump, even as he signaled support for the United States refugee resettlement program. The president, he wrote, “is right to make sure we are doing everything possible to know exactly who is entering our country.” He did not comment further.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, did not criticize the order itself but said the country needed to “be careful” with how it is carried out when he weighed in for the first time on Sunday.

“I don’t want to criticize them for improving vetting,” Mr. McConnell said on ABC’s “This Week.” “I think we need to be careful. We don’t have religious tests in this country.”

“Ultimately, we fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism,” they said, adding “That is why we fear this executive order may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security.”

Mr. McCain also said the plan was carried out without proper consultation of American allies and that mistakenly lumped together the country’s adversaries, like Iran, with allies, like Iraq.

Republicans have largely supported Mr. Trump’s aggressive agenda on other matters, but in his first major decision on national security, he is finding uncharacteristic opposition from his party in the blush of his early days in office.

Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, likewise questioned the hastiness of the order’s rollout and called for a re-evaluation of the White House’s unilateral effort.

“You have an extreme vetting proposal that did not get the vetting it should have had,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” adding that Congress should be part of finding a solution.

“In my view, we ought to all take a deep breath and come up with something that makes sense for our national security and again for this notion that America has always been a welcoming home for refugees and immigrants,” he said.

A handful of Republicans, including Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Senator Susan Collins of Maine, had offered similarly cautious criticism of the measure on Saturday.

But if further frustration was felt, it was not widely publicized. The Republican leadership has been more circumspect about the order, which resembles a bill passed by the House last year with widespread Republican support.

Speaker Paul D. Ryan released a statement on Friday praising the order by Mr. Trump, even as he signaled support for the United States refugee resettlement program. The president, he wrote, “is right to make sure we are doing everything possible to know exactly who is entering our country.” He did not comment further.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, did not criticize the order itself but said the country needed to “be careful” with how it is carried out when he weighed in for the first time on Sunday.

“I don’t want to criticize them for improving vetting,” Mr. McConnell said on ABC’s “This Week.” “I think we need to be careful. We don’t have religious tests in this country.

He added, “It’s hopefully going to be decided in the courts as to whether or not this has gone too far.”

Still, Mr. Trump’s actions are also likely to be the topic of debate on Capitol Hill this week. And the measure could add pressure to Mr. Trump’s nominees to lead the Justice and State Departments, who will probably be asked to offer their positions on the ban.

Mr. Trump’s order, which was enacted on Friday, halted the entry into the United States of all refugees for 120 days, barred the entry of Syrian refugees indefinitely and suspended for 90 days the entry of citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — all predominantly Muslim countries.

It prompted chaos across the globe as the United States’ borders were sealed off to the affected groups and Department of Homeland Security rushed to apply an uneven enforcement. By Saturday night, judges in at least two states had issued stays preventing the government from deporting certain arrivals caught in the rollout of the order.

Democrats were nearly united in their condemnation of Mr. Trump’s policy, with several of them rushing to airports to speak out in defense of people who had been detained and even those representing states Mr. Trump won voicing dissent.

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, called on Mr. Trump to immediately reverse the action on Sunday, saying it made the country “less humanitarian, less safe, less American.”

“It must be reversed immediately, and Democrats are going to introduce legislation to overturn it,” Mr. Schumer told reporters gathered for a news conference in New York.

Republicans who spoke out were far more measured, directing their criticism at the planning for the policy and its carrying out, though their disagreement with Mr. Trump was still clear.

Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona and a frequent critic of Mr. Trump, wrote on the website Medium that the president “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.”

Mr. Sasse said that Mr. Trump was right to focus on border security but disagreed with how he was carrying out the policy.

“There are two ways to lose our generational battle against jihadism by losing touch with reality,” Mr. Sasse said in a statement. “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.”

And Representative Barbara Comstock, a Republican whose Northern Virginia district includes a large Muslim population, said that Mr. Trump’s action had gone “beyond the increased vetting actions the Congress has supported” and called for the White House to quickly exempt holders of green cards from the order.

Mr. Trump and his aides on Sunday dismissed criticism as out of proportion with the effects of the ban and that the impact on families of those affected was a small price to pay for increased safety

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