Members of Congress divided on Trump immigration order

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    Media and protesters crowd around, (from left), Governor Tom Wolf, Representative Bob Brady, and Senator Bob Casey as they speak about their opposition and the developing situation regarding President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration at the Philadelphia International Airport. (Branden Eastwood for NewsWorks)

    Media and protesters crowd around, (from left), Governor Tom Wolf, Representative Bob Brady, and Senator Bob Casey as they speak about their opposition and the developing situation regarding President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration at the Philadelphia International Airport. (Branden Eastwood for NewsWorks)

    As demonstrators swarmed to airports to protest President Trump’s executive order on refugees and immigrants, our region’s Congressional representatives have had to figure out what they think about the travel ban.

    It was easy for Democrats. Many made their way to Philadelphia International Airport to join protesters, including Philadelphia U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, South Jersey Rep. Donald Norcross, and Delaware U.S. Sen. Tom Carper and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester.

    For Republicans it was a trickier calculation, since their party holds the White House.

    All seven GOP Congressional representatives I contacted issued statements expressing some degree of concern about Trump’s order or its implementation. None was available for an interview except U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent of the Leigh Valley, a critic of Trump during last year’s campaign.

    In a phone interview, Dent said the order was overly broad and badly implemented. “This was not properly vetted, and the implementation has been very rough,” he said, “and that’s why I’ve called on the administration to halt enforcement of this action until more people can take a look at it.”

    Dent, who represents a large Syrian immigrant population, is the only area representative contacted who explicitly called on the administration to stop enforcing the order.

    Finding fault, but not too muchBecause there’s no pending Congressional action on the order, every representative can craft his or her own critique. There’s no need to give the Trump order a clear thumbs up or down.

    The most supportive of local Republicans was New Jersey U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur, who represents swaths of Burlington and Ocean counties.  He said while Trump’s order “could have been implemented better, I applaud him for acting. Our new president deserves the chance to make our country safer and I will work in Congress to help the Administration settle on a long-term fix that protects our people and our values.”  

    U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, in his first weeks in Congress representing Bucks County and a sliver of Montgomery County, said in a statement “the President’s policy entirely misses the mark,” in placing a regional focus on a global problem.

    South Jersey U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, who has served in Washington since 1995, doesn’t object to a pause in the refugee program, but said hasty execution of the order created widespread problems.

    U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania’s 6th district in Philadelphia’s western suburbs said he supports a 90-day review of the immigrant vetting process, but that “green card holders and those assisting us in the war on terror should not be denied entry, and actions to the contrary must be remedied immediately.”

    In the neighboring Pennsylvania 7th district, also in the western suburbs, U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan said he has “concerns with the way this order was drafted and implemented,” which apparently “harmed families already in transit to the U.S., immigrants who have already completed the rigorous green card screening process.”

    And there’s Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, who back during the campaign objected to Trump’s call for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country. Trump’s current order is more complex.

    Toomey declined an interview, but said in a statement he supports the decision to “increase vetting and temporarily suspend the admission of certain individuals from states that sponsor or provide safe havens to terrorists, or are too weak to prosecute terrorists within their borders.”

    Toomey said the initial executive order was too broad and poorly explained, resulting in denied entry to some who should have been admitted to the country.

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