Members of Arkansas’ Congressional delegation were for the most part quiet about President Donald Trump’s controversial executive order issued Friday (Jan. 27) to temporarily block refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.
The order, which also places an indefinite block on Syrian refugees, resulted in unintended consequences including detaining without due process legal travelers, dual citizens, green card holders and others. The American Civil Liberties Union challenged the order, and late Saturday U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly ordered a stay against Trump’s order, although there remained confusion Sunday about which detainees were covered by the order and federal agency reactions to the order.
Part of Trump’s order noted: “In order to protect Americans, the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles. The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law. In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including “honor” killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.”
U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., said through a spokeswoman that Trump’s order was not a religious test and is “not a ban on people of any religion.” U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said Trump is correct to take action against potential terrorists, but told the Washington Post that the order was too broad.
“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,” Sasse said in the story. “Our generational fight against jihadism requires wisdom.”
U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, issued the following statement. He was the only member of Arkansas’ Congressional delegation to respond to a Talk Business & Politics request for comment on the issue.
“I have consistently supported increased scrutiny of immigrants from areas of the world that are hotbeds of terrorist activity. My colleagues and I will be studying the exact text of the executive order, along with its implications, in classified and unclassified settings in the weeks to come. I look forward to a thoughtful partnership with the Trump administration and am glad the President is focusing on strengthening our immigrant vetting processes.”
When asked if Womack, like some other GOP members of Congress, were concerned about sending the wrong message, spokeswoman Claire Burghoff said the Congressman is working to learn more about the order.
“It’s too early to comment on details until he has a chance to study the exact policies and their implications – and that will likely require a classified setting,” she said.
Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute, said Trump’s order is “a response to a phantom menace.”
“This is a response to a phantom menace. From 1975 to the end of 2015, 20 refugees have been convicted of attempting or committing terrorism on U.S. soil, and only three Americans have been killed in attacks committed by refugees — all in the 1970s,” Nowrasteh wrote in his note for the libertarian thinktank. “Zero Americans have been killed by Syrian refugees in a terrorist attack on U.S. soil. The annual chance of an American dying in a terrorist attack committed by a refugee is one in 3.6 billion. The other 17 convictions have mainly been for aiding or attempting to join foreign terrorists.”
Fayetteville-based entrepreneur and investor John James said Trump’s order, if continued or expanded, will have a negative economic impact. James just happened to be traveling and was at the San Francisco International Airport when federal officials began detaining travelers.
“It hit close to home yesterday as I sat in San Fransisco International Airport. Not far from my gate, a high-ranking executive at a well-funded Silicon Valley startup was detained despite holding a green card. Her Iranian travel companions were handcuffed and deported,” James told Talk Business & Politics.
Continuing, he wrote: “I stand in agreement with the recent statements by the CEOs of Google, Netflix, Apple, and Tesla and believe that the 7-country travel ban will stifle innovation. … While I’m all for securing our borders, we must do so without harm to the brilliant immigrants who drive an outsized proportion of our country’s innovation.”
UPDATE: Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., issued a statement on the President’s immigration ban, but has yet to answer follow up questions on the subject that have been requested by Talk Business & Politics.
“It’s simply wrong to call the president’s executive order concerning immigration and refugees ‘a religious test’ of any kind. I doubt many Arkansans or Americans more broadly object to taking a harder look at foreigners coming into our country from war-torn nations with known terror networks; I think they’re wondering why we don’t do that already. With proper procedures for green-card holders and immigrants with a documented history of serving alongside our troops, I think most Americans support these common-sense measures. I also think it’s high time we took action to fix an ill-designed refugee program that harms Christians and other religious minorities who’ve suffered from genocide in Syria. Whatever the media and liberal politicians may say, I’m confident that, under Secretary Kelly’s leadership, these measures will help keep America safe.”
Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., issued a statement in response to questions posed by Talk Business & Politics that included asking if the executive order is too broad, should have Congressional input, and was unfairly targeting Muslims.
“Protecting our national security must be a top priority. Our intelligence community and citizens in communities across Arkansas and the United States lack confidence in the programs we use to vet refugees fleeing from persecution and war-torn countries like Syria,” said Boozman. “We need reasonable measures that allow us to evaluate safety checks for people coming into our country. I have great confidence in Secretary Kelly and look forward to working with him to secure our borders. This is best achieved by working with Congress and the appropriate agencies to alleviate unintended consequences.”
Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, issued this statement on Monday:
“In our own neighborhoods, we don’t lock our doors because we dislike the people who live outside, we lock our doors because we love those who are inside. The same is true on the international stage. Green card holders and aides of the U.S. military should be allowed entry, but refugees from countries with very active threat networks deserve additional scrutiny, period. Trump’s executive order on refugees from 7 unstable nations is a temporary security measure designed to keep our nation safer, which is the role of our federal government above everything else.”
Talk Business & Politics will update this story.