GOP senators sound off on Trump refugee order

The Hill– GOP lawmakers are speaking out against President Trump’s executive order barring many refugees and citizens of certain predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) called the order “unacceptable” amid concerns that it would prevent legal permanent residents from entering the U.S., which the administration attempted to clarify on Saturday.

“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,” Flake said in a statement.

“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,” Flake added.

The Department of Homeland Security said Saturday that Trump’s order also applies to green card holders from the seven affected countries — Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Libya and Yemen — which are all predominantly Muslim.

A senior administration official said that those with green cards, which serve as proof of their permanent legal residence in the U.S., would need a case-by-case waiver if they were outside the country and wanted to return to the U.S.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), a vocal Trump critic, also issued a statement Saturday calling the order overly broad and arguing that it played into the hands of terrorist organizations looking to turn Muslims against the U.S.

“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,” Sasse said. “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,” he added.

“Both approaches are wrong, and both will make us less safe. Our generational fight against jihadism requires wisdom,” he added.

In a series of tweets on Saturday evening, Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) also railed against Trump’s order, arguing that it undermined the Constitution and was too extreme in its approach.

“We must do much more to properly vet refugees, but a blanket ban represents an extreme approach not consistent with our nation’s values,” Amash wrote in a tweet.

Still, GOP leaders on Saturday remained relatively silent on the order, which bars Syrian refugees indefinitely and halts entry for 90 days for those hailing from the seven countries identified by U.S. officials.

Speaker Paul Ryan lauded the order on Friday, and an aide to the Wisconsin Republican dismissed criticism Saturday that the order amounted to religious discrimination against Muslims.

“We are a compassionate nation, and I support the refugee resettlement program, but it’s time to reevaluate and strengthen the visa vetting process,” Ryan said in a statement.

“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.”

Both Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) previously denounced Trump’s plan to temporarily ban foreign Muslims from entering the U.S. while he was a presidential candidate.

Democrats and civil-rights groups on Saturday ripped Trump’s order, with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) calling on the Department of Homeland Security to immediately “rescind” it.