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Some Republicans Criticize Trump's Immigration Order

Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Susan Collins were among those to weigh in against the executive order.
Image: Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 5, 2017.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 5, 2017.Evan Vucci / AP

Some Republicans joined the chorus of critics assailing Donald Trump’s immigration order over the weekend, describing it as everything from “contrary to American values” to a “self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism.”

In a joint statement released Sunday, Arizona Sen. John McCain and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said the order — which went into effect Friday and temporarily banned refugees seeking asylum in the U.S. and those traveling with visas from seven Muslim-majority nations — was not “properly vetted” and was responsible for the disarray seen at airports across the country.

“Such a hasty process risks harmful results,” the statement said. “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.”

The order sends a “signal,” the statement added, that the U.S. does not want to work with its one its most important allies in the fight against ISIS — “the vast majority of Muslims who reject its apocalyptic ideology of hatred.”

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“Ultimately, we fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism,” the statement said.

Among Trump’s other critics were Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who described the order’s exemption for members of minority faiths who claim persecution as un-American. Sens. Ben Sasse and Cory Gardner of Nebraska and Colorado separately described it as overly broad, while Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Mormon, recalled the refugee status of his own ancestors and urged the administration to "to move quickly to tailor its policy on visa issuance as narrowly as possible."

In Arizona, Sen. Jeff Flake said that strengthening national security required "a clear-eyed view" that doesn't ascribe terrorist views to all Muslims, and in Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker said that the “lack of guidance associated with such an abrupt and overwhelming decision is hugely problematic for all involved.”

Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Tim Scott of South Carolina jointly issued a measured response supportive of the executive order's intentions, but critical of its execution. "The manner in which these measures were crafted and implemented have greatly contributed to the confusion, anxiety and uncertainty of the last few days," the Republican senators said in a statement, adding that they had outstanding questions given the order's broad scope.

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"We are uneasy about the potential impact of these measures on our military and our diplomatic personnel abroad, as well as those who put their lives on the line to work with us," Rubio and Scott said in the statement.

Ranking Republicans in the House and Senate have been less sharp in their reactions, however. Speaker Paul Ryan has yet to weigh in on the issue, while Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told ABC on Sunday that he didn't approve of religious tests, but he also didn't want to criticize the administration for "improving vetting."

On Sunday, Trump dismissed his critics and blamed the media, as he often does, for “false” reporting.

In a post on Twitter, he called McCain and Graham “weak on immigration” and told them to “focus their energies on ISIS, illegal immigration and border security instead of always looking to start World War III.”

In a statement, Trump emphasized the temporary nature of the order and said that visas would again be issued “once we are sure we have reviewed and implemented the most secure policies over he next 90 days.”

He has not yet provided details on those policies.

“To be clear,” he said, “this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is not about religion—this is about terror and keeping our country safe.”

Trump added that he has a “tremendous feeling for the people involved in this horrific humanitarian crisis in Syria.”

Earlier Sunday, one of Trump’s top officials, chief of staff Reince Priebus, played down the confusion seen at American airports, saying that only 109 of 325,000 people from foreign countries were detained.

“Most of those people were moved out,” he said on Meet the Press. “I would suspect as long as they’re not awful people that they will move through before another half a day.”