President Donald Trump’s executive order banning entry to the United States by refugees and emigrants from seven Muslim countries has drawn the fire of two members of the Florida delegation who lead a key congressional subcommittee.
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the first woman to ever chair the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee and currently the chairwoman of the U.S. House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, came out against Trump’s executive order on Sunday.
"I object to the suspension of visas from the seven named countries and of the US Refugee Admissions Program because we could have accomplished our objective of keeping our homeland safe by immediate implementation of more thorough screening procedures,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “I do note, however, that at least some individuals will continue to be admitted during this suspension period on a case by case basis and that the suspension period is temporary. In no case should this order be applied to individuals to whom visas have already been issued, are already permanent legal US residents, or have already been granted refugee status.
“Both the letter and the spirit of the rule of law, on which our liberties rest, require that we honor legal commitments and procedures established by law, including existing visas and approved refugee status, absent specific articulable reasons for reversing a prior decision,” Ros-Lehtinen added. “The new administration needs to pay careful attention to crafting orders that honor existing legal commitments and existing law, in contrast to this broad brush approach which doesn't focus on the precise problems."
Ros-Lehtinen isn’t the only member of the Florida delegation focused on the Middle East to go after Trump on the matter. U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., the ranking Democrat on the House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, also took aim at Trump’s executive order. Deutch has worked closely with Ros-Lehtinen in recent years, standing against then President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran and in supporting Israel.
“Our nation has a proud history of welcoming refugees from around the world fleeing horrific conditions in their home countries, and escaping extreme violence and persecution to seek safety in the United States," Deutch noted at the end of last week. “In a direct attack on this proudly American value, the president’s executive order on refugees starts a period in which the United States closes its doors to the most vulnerable people, including children, seeking safety in our country.
Our top priority is guaranteeing the safety and security of the American people, and I believe we need a thorough and comprehensive vetting process for all people seeking asylum or refuge,” Deutch added. “However, the president’s decision - to slam the door on all refugees for four months and Muslim refugees indefinitely, and to cut by more than half the number of refugees seeking safe haven this year - will leave thousands of vulnerable families and children around the world in limbo, leaving them to suffer horrific atrocities and persecution. This will mean the LGBT individual from Uganda or any country that criminalizes homosexuality, and the thousands of Baha’i, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim refugees persecuted in Iran, would continue to live in fear of persecution without any hope of being welcomed in our country where Lady Liberty’s torch will no longer light a path toward freedom.
“This executive order will not strengthen our national security, but it will leave thousands of families vulnerable to violence and suffering,” Deutch concluded. “Our nation has shut its doors to those fleeing violence before. We should not return to those days.”
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