Colorado Democrats rip travel ban while Republicans offer mixed reactions

Author: Ernest Luning - January 30, 2017 - Updated: January 30, 2017

Michael Bennet Cory Gardner
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, and Cory Gardner, a Republican (Colorado Statesman archive)

Colorado’s Democratic members of Congress roundly denounced the travel ban signed by President Donald Trump late Friday while the state’s Republican delegation was split, with responses ranging from a full endorsement to suggestions the Trump administration either fine-tune or substantially overhaul the decree.

The executive order imposes a sweeping ban on any refugees entering the United States for 120 days and barred entry entirely for 90 days for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries — Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia — until the administration could establish what officials termed “extreme vetting” for those entering the country. It also imposes an indefinite ban on refugees from Syria. Disputes quickly arose whether this ban applied to green-card holders already granted permanent residency in the United States with conflicting interpretations emerging.

Chaos erupted as opponents protested at airports — including Denver International Airport — and White House officials scrambled to clarify who, exactly, was subject to the travel ban. Civil rights groups obtained court orders barring enforcement of some provisions of the order on Saturday, but by Sunday reports filtered out on social media that Department of Homeland Security officials and agents were refusing to comply, setting a tense stage as the new administration entered its second full week.

“This is not about religion — this is about terror and keeping our country safe,” Trump said in a statement Sunday responding to the backlash. “We will again be issuing visas to all countries once we are sure we have reviewed and implemented the most secure policies over the next 90 days.”

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, a Democrat, however, was having none of it, calling the policy both dangerous and contrary to American values.

“The President’s executive order on refugees will harm, not enhance, our national security and marks a significant departure from our nation’s proud history of welcoming people in need of protection,” Bennet said in a statement Friday evening. “To halt completely or to shape our refugee program by religious or ethnic preferences betrays the values that have made our country strong.”

Bennet went on to contend that the refugees “are more thoroughly vetted than any other group of people entering the United States,” and argued that the policy will make the country less safe. “In addition, targeting certain religions and groups will undermine our counterterrorism efforts by stoking anti-West sentiment among ISIS followers and other extremists,” he said.

He urged the administration to fix any issues in the Visa Waiver Program, work to counter ISIS propaganda and support a bipartisan immigration overhaul that Bennet and seven other senators came up with in 2013.

On Sunday, Bennet weighed in again, this time on Twitter: “@POTUS should rescind EO. If not, Congress must stand together, override EO to end ban, & work to make U.S. safer consistent with our values,” he tweeted.

His Republican colleague, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, said on Sunday afternoon that he shared the impetus behind the policy but said it went too far and urged the administration to modify the order.

“While I am supportive of strengthening our screening processes and securing our borders, a blanket travel ban goes too far,” Gardner said in a statement. “I also believe that lawful residents of the United States should be permitted to enter the country. I urge the Administration to take the appropriate steps to fix this overly broad executive order.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican, said in a series of tweets posted on Saturday evening that he was opposed to a “blanket travel ban … on ethnic or religious grounds,” although he didn’t say if he believed the president’s order imposed such a ban. (A spokesman for Coffman didn’t respond to an inquiry asking for elaboration.)

“While I’ve supported heightened vetting procedures, I have never, nor will I ever support a blanket travel ban….. for people solely based on ethnic or religious grounds,” Coffman tweeted.

Republican U.S. Rep. Ken Buck offered unqualified support for the executive order in a statement issued Monday morning.

“Our country has always offered hope for the oppressed and homeless, but hope also requires safety and security,” Buck said. We should not let people into this country unless we can thoroughly vet them. America welcomes Muslims from 190 countries and temporarily bans all individuals from 7 countries. The President’s executive order is a temporary effort that addresses a serious issue with terrorist hot spots.”

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, a Democrat and the dean of the Colorado congressional delegation, swung back hard at the executive order in a statement and on Twitter.

“.@POTUS’ refugee ban is discriminatory, hurts asylum seekers worldwide & thwarts our progress countering violent extremism. It’s just wrong,” she tweeted on Friday, along with a graphic reading, “President Trump’s refugee ban won’t make America great. It will make America hate, discriminate, deteriorate.”

On Saturday, she issued a statement: “President Trump’s executive order on refugees slammed the door to safety, security and hope for millions around the world. Reverberations are already being felt, with travelers and migrants en-route to the United States being detained at airports around the world — even people who hold valid current green cards that normally would let them come and go at will. America has always been a beacon to oppressed people, and while this extreme policy is a major setback, it doesn’t change America’s inclusive spirit.”

U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, a Democrat, tweeted his opposition to the travel ban on Sunday afternoon, using the hashtag #MuslimBan, although the order’s defenders deny that’s what it is.

“#MuslimBan is extreme & conflicts with America’s values,” Perlmutter tweeted. “I will continue fighting for inclusiveness. Thank you to everyone protesting!”

U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Republican, said in a statement Monday morning that the executive order was consistent with bipartisan legislation that passed the House of Representatives last year. “By taking steps to temporarily stop refugee admittance from nations that are hotbeds of terrorist activity, the President is taking prudent action to ensure that his national security and law enforcement teams have the strategies and systems in place that they will need to protect and defend America,” he said.

“While I do not support the broad, misinformed, and inflammatory criticisms of the Executive Order, it is important that the privileges of law-abiding Green Card holders are not abridged. I appreciate the White House Chief of Staff clarifying this point over the weekend,” Lamborn continued. He was referring to White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus’s comments on Sunday that green-card holders would be subject to scrutiny upon arrival but not denied entry solely based on their citizenship in one of the seven countries.

Noting that President Barack Obama’s administration had also implemented temporary refugee and visa restrictions, Lamborn added, “Now is not a time for division fueled by dishonesty and partisan politics, now is a time for our nation to come together and work diligently to find lasting and sustainable solutions to the national security challenges of the 21st century.”

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, a Republican, said in a statement issued Monday morning that he supports a temporary halt to accepting refugees and immigrants from “certain countries that are known hotbeds for terrorism” while the administration strengthens its screening procedures but raised concern about other aspects of the order.

“However, I am concerned about the impact that the President’s executive order is having on individuals who have visas or green cards,” Tipton said. “Individuals who have already been vetted and granted visas or permanent resident status should not be impacted by the executive order, and putting them under the umbrella of this order’s reach — no matter where they come from — will further damage an already-flawed immigration system.”

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. Since 2009, he has been the senior political reporter and occasional editor for The Colorado Statesman.

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