Here Is What Republican Critics of Trump's Immigration Order Are Saying

More than 40 GOP legislators complain that the new restrictions are hasty, vague, unfair, and overly broad.


White House

Last week House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) welcomed President Trump's executive order suspending admission of all refugees for 120 days, blocking Syrian refugees indefinitely, cutting this year's refugee cap in half, and banning travelers with passports from any of seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days. "It's time to reevaluate and strengthen the visa vetting process," Ryan said on Friday. "President Trump is right to make sure we are doing everything possible to know exactly who is entering our country." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was somewhat less supportive. "I don't want to criticize them for improving vetting," McConnell told ABC News on Sunday. "It's going to be decided in the courts as to whether or not this has gone too far."

Those comments by Republican leaders leave a misleading impression of the views among GOP legislators, which include criticism ranging from mild to harsh as well as support ranging from lukewarm to enthusiastic. As Nick Gillespie noted yesterday, opposition from Republicans is especially significant, since it shows that even members of the president's party who may agree that vetting of visitors to the U.S. should be improved think Trump has gone too far. On this subject, descriptions like "embarrassing" and "completely misses the mark" (see below) carry more weight when they come from conservative Republicans than when they come from Democrats who can be expected to denounce nearly everything Trump does.

Last night Washington Post reporter Aaron Blake counted 84 Republican members of Congress who have publicly supported Trump's order, and this statement from Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) makes it 85. Blake lists Rand Paul, the libertarian-leaning Kentucky senator who briefly ran for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination against Trump, as a legislator who has not taken a position on Trump's order. But judging from comments Paul made in an interview with talk radio host Andrew Wilkow yesterday, he should also be counted as a supporter. "If you want to be an immigrant into our country, the Constitution doesn't apply to you, and we have every right to make any immigration law we want," said Paul, who in 2015 sponsored legislation that would have temporarily banned admission of refugees from 34 "high-risk countries," almost all of them with large Muslim majorities. "Now a lot of us have the sensibility, myself included, that it shouldn't be based on religion who is admitted to the country." Trump argues that his order is based on national origin, not religion, which was also how Paul's bill was framed.

More striking is the number of Republican legislators who have criticized Trump's order: at least 41, by my count, including 14 senators and 27 representatives. The most common themes in the critical comments are that the formulation and implementation of the order were unnecessarily rushed (a point also made by some legislators who otherwise support the order), that the order was vague and should not have been applied to legal permanent residents (a policy that the Trump administration reversed on Sunday), that Trump should revise the vetting process for visitors and refugees in collaboration with Congress, that the order resembles a religious test for immigration, that the order will alienate potential Muslim allies around the world, and that Iraqis granted special visas because of the assistance they or their relatives provided to American forces could be forced to stay in a country where their lives are in danger.

Here is what Republican critics of Trump's order have said, arranged alphabetically by chamber. I have marked the strongest criticism—going beyond complaints about haste, vagueness, and the order's impact on green-card holders—with asterisks.


*Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)

This vetting proposal itself needed more vetting. More scrutiny of those traveling from war-torn countries to the United States is wise. But this broad and confusing order seems to ban legal, permanent residents with "green cards," and might turn away Iraqis, for example, who were translators and helped save lives of American troops and who could be killed if they stay in Iraq. And while not explicitly a religious test, it comes close to one, which is inconsistent with our American character.

*Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)

The worldwide refugee ban set forth in the executive order is overly broad, and implementing it will be immediately problematic….It could interfere with the immigration of Iraqis who worked for American forces in Iraq as translators and bodyguards—people who literally saved the lives of our troops and diplomats during the last decade and whose lives are at risk if they remain in Iraq.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.)

We all share a desire to protect the American people, but this executive order has been poorly implemented, especially with respect to green card holders. The administration should immediately make appropriate revisions, and it is my hope that following a thorough review and implementation of security enhancements that many of these programs will be improved and reinstated.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)

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. 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.

*Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.)

While I am supportive of strengthening our screening processes and securing our borders, a blanket travel ban goes too far. 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.

*Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.)

I agree that better vetting and border protection measures are necessary to our current immigration system. That's why I support the thorough vetting of individuals entering our country. However, I am deeply troubled ?by the appearance of a religious ban. ?The use of an overly broad executive order is not the way to strengthen national security. ?I encourage the Administration to partner with Congress to find a solution.

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.)

The mandate over the weekend was not very well vetted and the people designed to carry out the mandate didn't know what the mandate was, and when asked some of the questions it didn't sound like the White House knew what it was exactly. They've amended it a couple times already. You need to be very careful when you're issuing executive orders or passing laws that you vet them all the way through the system so you can carry them out once they're in place.

*Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)

Our government has a responsibility to defend our borders, but we must do so in a way that makes us safer and upholds all that is decent and exceptional about our nation.

It is clear from the confusion at our airports across the nation that President Trump's executive order was not properly vetted. We are particularly concerned by reports that this order went into effect with little to no consultation with the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security.

Such a hasty process risks harmful results. 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.

Ultimately, we fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism. At this very moment, American troops are fighting side-by-side with our Iraqi partners to defeat ISIL. But this executive order bans Iraqi pilots from coming to military bases in Arizona to fight our common enemies. Our most important allies in the fight against ISIL are the vast majority of Muslims who reject its apocalyptic ideology of hatred. This executive order sends a signal, intended or not, that America does not want Muslims coming into our country. That is why we fear this executive order may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security.

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.)

It's common sense to have appropriate vetting procedures in place for individuals wishing to travel to our country. While I support thorough vetting, I do not support restricting the rights of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. Furthermore, far-reaching national security policy should always be devised in consultation with Congress and relevant government agencies.

*Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio)

I think it was not properly vetted. So, you have an extreme vetting proposal that didn't get the vetting it should have had. And as a result, in the implementation, we've seen some problems.…

I think we should slow down. Let's make two points. One, our country is not as safe as it should be. I'm on the Homeland Security Committee. We've had plenty of testimony in the last couple of years about the fact that there is not adequate screening, particularly on the Visa waiver programs. So I do think we need to tighten things up. And I think there's general consensus about that. Congress passed legislation to do so at the end of 2015.

But second, we have to do it in a way that's consistent with our values and consistent with our national security. We are this beacon of hope and opportunity for the rest of the world. That's our self-image and it's also an important part of our foreign policy. So we have to do it in a way that makes sense. And we have a Cleveland Clinic doctor who, for instance, was turned away last night apparently. That's not the way to do it.

In my view, we ought to all take a deep breath and come up with something that makes sense for our national security and again for this notion that America has always been a welcoming home for refugees and immigrants. In fact, we are more welcoming than any country in the world and we should continue to be so.

*Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.)

The President is right to focus attention on the obvious fact that borders matter. At the same time, while not technically a Muslim ban, this order is too broad. 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. 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. Both approaches are wrong, and both will make us less safe. Our generational fight against jihadism requires wisdom.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.)

While the executive order does take immediate action aimed at tightening the refugee screening process, there is a lot of confusion surrounding the order, particularly given the instances of green card holders inexplicably being denied entry back into the United States. The order should be refined to provide more clarity and mitigate unintended consequences that do not make our country any safer.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.)

I support the administration's 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….Unfortunately, the initial executive order was flawed—it was too broad and poorly explained. This apparently resulted in denied entry into the United States for lawful permanent residents and others who should have been allowed immediate entry. Fortunately, the administration has clarified that this order does not apply to green card holders and that the secretaries of state and homeland security have the ability to grant exceptions which certainly should apply to, among others, foreign nationals who served the U.S. military in various support roles.

I look forward to learning more about how the administration intends to enforce this executive order, to determine whether it indeed strikes the appropriate balance between defending our nation and maintaining our ability to provide a safe haven for persecuted individuals.


*Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.)

Like President Obama's executive actions on immigration, President Trump's executive order overreaches and undermines our constitutional system. It's not lawful to ban immigrants on the basis of nationality. If the president wants to change immigration law, he must work with Congress.

The president's denial of entry to lawful permanent residents of the United States (green card holders) is particularly troubling. Green card holders live in the United States as our neighbors and serve in our Armed Forces. They deserve better.

I agree with the president that we must do much more to properly vet refugees, but a blanket ban represents an extreme approach not consistent with our nation's values. While the executive order allows the admittance of immigrants, nonimmigrants, and refugees "on a case-by-case basis," arbitrariness would violate the Rule of Law.

Ultimately, the executive order appears to be more about politics than safety. If the concern is radicalism and terrorism, then what about Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and others?

Finally, we can't effectively fight homegrown Islamic radicalism by perpetuating the "us vs. them" mindset that terrorists use to recruit. We must ensure that the United States remains dedicated to the Constitution, the Rule of Law, and liberty. It can't be stated strongly enough that capitalism creates prosperity and improves assimilation into society.

*Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.)

Surely there is a way to enhance the security at our borders without unnecessarily detaining innocent individuals who have followed the rules, stood in line, and pose no threat to our country, and I hope this Administration takes quick action to ensure that we're focused only on those who pose a threat to our safety.

*Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.)

The restrictions should not affect U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. In addition, I believe people with previously approved refugee status applications or visas should be admitted to the U.S.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)

People that have a green card supposedly already have been vetted, so there needs to be some further clarification.

*Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.)

I think the policy was poorly thought-out and badly executed, and I think it's just an embarrassment. It seemed that it was more crafted by campaign operatives than national security experts.

Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.)

As I consistently have said, I don't believe it is constitutional to ban people from our country on the basis of religion. However, I do support – and the House of Representatives has supported on a bipartisan basis – increased vetting based on national security concerns. The President's Executive Order issued yesterday went beyond the increased vetting actions that Congress has supported on a bipartisan basis and inexplicably applied to green card holders, people who are legally within our country who have followed the rules. Green card holders go through a detailed legal process and are vetted. They are required to register with the selective service – and many serve in the military. They pay taxes. I find it hard to believe that green card holders—legal permanent residents—were intended to be included in this Executive Order. This should be addressed and corrected expeditiously.

*Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.)

This is ridiculous….The order appears to have been rushed through without full consideration. You know, there are many, many nuances of immigration policy that can be life or death for many innocent, vulnerable people around the world.

*Rep. John Faso (R-N.Y.)

After careful review of the recent executive order regarding immigration policy, I believe that the order was neither well drafted nor well implemented. Given recent events both here and abroad, we need to take steps to strengthen our nation's security; however, this is most effectively pursued through thoughtful and deliberative legislation. While I acknowledge that the president may act in the event of a national security threat or emergency situation, this process was rushed and led to confusion. There is no doubt that we need to thoroughly vet people coming from countries where there are strongholds of ISIS and al-Qaida. At the same time, we have to balance our security with the need to respect the rights of US citizens and people who are subject to valid immigration proceedings, including lawful permanent residents.

*Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.)

The president's policy entirely misses the mark….We were focused on solutions, not engaging in partisan attacks or declaring a singular fix to a complicated issue….Terrorism inspired by radicalism and hate is global in scope and, as such, requires a comprehensive response, not a purely regional focus. While serious actions are needed to protect our country, these must not be done in a way that singles out any specific nations or ethnicities.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.)

We have always been a country that welcomes immigrants. However, it is also important to remember that national security is the number one job of the federal government. Given shortcomings in the current screening process, I joined a bipartisan House majority in supporting legislation to strengthen the vetting process for individuals seeking entry to the United States through the Visa Waiver Program or as refugees. The Executive Order signed by the president on Friday came with little clarity and caused much uncertainty for foreign travelers. Additional implementing guidance is needed to ensure that the order can be applied in a fair and equitable manner.

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.)

As part of his strategy to make the safety and security of the American people his top priority, President Trump believes a pause in immigration from unstable regions is warranted. However, this weekend's confusion is an indication that the details of this executive order were not properly scrutinized. Among others, reconsideration should be given to courageous individuals who served as interpreters for our military and properly vetted refugees.

*Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.)

Our nation has a strong and principled tradition as a beacon of hope for the vulnerable and oppressed. Given the nature of the threats we face in the 21st century, I believe it is prudent to once again review and strengthen our visa screening processes to ensure those we let into our country have American interests at heart….

I believe that the vetting within the refugee program is already extensive and thorough—it is currently the most difficult and lengthy process to get into the United States, typically taking 18 months or more for a vulnerable family to survive while they wait approval to enter our country. I expect the rigor of the vetting process to be confirmed during the 120-day review of our current visa policies regarding refugees….

Unfortunately, the President's executive order is overly broad and its interpretation has been inconsistent and confused. This has led to unintended consequences, like the barring of legal permanent residents and the rejection of Syrian Christians at the airport, a religious minority that was supposed to be protected by the executive order.

Keeping America First means keeping our principles first—both compassion and security. To remain the world's shining city on a hill and beacon of hope to many, we should have our arms open to those who are fleeing oppression and seeking safety, not turning them away at the door.

*Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas)

The Executive Order banning visa adjudication from seven countries does not make us safer; rather it decreases the security of our homeland and endangers the lives of thousands of American men and women in our Military, diplomatic corps and intelligence services. There are almost 10,000 Americans serving in Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. A target has been placed on their backs by increasing tensions in an already volatile region. These men and women are fighting alongside citizens of those countries in order to keep Islamic Extremists on the run and off our shores.

As an undercover CIA officer I spent most of my adult life chasing down terrorists that would do our homeland and U.S. Citizens harm, so I know how important it is to cooperate with foreign allies to get the job done. We cannot fight the scourge of Islamic Extremism alone, and to prevent terrorists from having safe havens from which to plot, plan and train for attacks on the United States, we need to work with all allies around the world. This visa ban is the ultimate display of mistrust and will erode our allies' willingness to fight with us. The ban also provides terrorists with another tool to gain sympathy and recruit new fighters.

The way to solve this problem is to continue tightening visa loopholes, ensure that the right intelligence is being shared with our allies and amongst U.S. agencies and organizations, and to use a number of tools to keep Americans from falling prey to ISIS propaganda. Several bills passed the House or Senate last Congress to address these issues, but were not signed into law. I will work to re-introduce legislation designed to keep all Americans safe, giving our President the opportunity to sign legislation that will protect our shores from those who seek to do us harm.

Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.)

I have concerns with this executive order, including the fact that it could potentially deny entrance to our country to lawful, permanent residents and dual citizens.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.)

The President's recent executive order has caused confusion among those asked to enforce it, and recent media reports have muddled facts and fiction. I urge the Administration to clarify the specifics on what should and should not be done to best protect our homeland, our people, and our communities.

I support a comprehensive look at our vetting process, and I believe it's something every new administration would be expected to do. However, reports of green card holders and those who assisted us in the war on terror being denied or delayed entry is deeply concerning. Such detention is unacceptable and must be remedied immediately.

*Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.)

While I do support increased vetting of individuals applying to travel from countries with extensive terrorist ties or activity, the President's current travel ban executive order appears rushed and poorly implemented. Reports of green card holders and those who assisted us in the War on Terror being denied or delayed entry into the U.S. is deeply concerning and must be remedied immediately. It is Congress' role to amend our immigration laws and I strongly urge President Trump to work with legislators to enact a clear, effective and enhanced vetting and monitoring process.

*Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas)

In light of the confusion and uncertainty created in the wake of the President's Executive Order, it is clear adjustments are needed. We should not simply turn away individuals who already have lawful U.S. visas or green cards—like those who have risked their lives serving alongside our forces overseas or who call America their home. We must be focused instead on putting in place tougher screening measures to weed out terror suspects while facilitating the entry of peaceful, freedom-loving people of all religions who see the United States as a beacon of hope. In the future, such policy changes should be better coordinated with the agencies implementing them and with Congress to ensure we get it right—and don't undermine our nation's credibility while trying to restore it.

*Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.)

Some innocent people, including some who have performed brave and valuable service to our anti-terror efforts, are having their lives needlessly disrupted. I encourage the administration to review its order in consultation with its national security team to ensure our enforcement resources are being targeted where they can be most effective and to allow those law-abiding green card holders and visa holders who clearly aren't a threat to security to return to their jobs and communities here in America.

*Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.)

I support thorough vetting of those entering our country from countries and regions posing a serious threat to Americans. But this vetting must be applied responsibly and thoughtfully, and appropriately target those who are a national security risk. Unfortunately, the President's executive order is too broad and has been poorly implemented and conceived. It is clear from the events this weekend that the executive order does not ensure that legal residents, including green card holders, and non-threats, such as those who served alongside the American military in Iraq, are treated fairly and with the dignity they deserve.

Rep. Jim Rennaci (R-Ohio)

I strongly encourage the administration to examine more closely whether it is effectual and necessary to subject green card holders from these nations to this temporary order.

*Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.)

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. 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. 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.

Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.)

I'm hearing a voice of concern [from my constituents] that things are moving from weird to reckless in their view. And that even if you're going to enact this policy, the way in which it was done just seems bizarre.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.)

I do not believe it is right to ban green card holders from entering the United States absent evidence of a threat, regardless of where they are from.

*Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.)

I oppose President Trump's rushed and overly broad Executive Order. On the House Armed Services Committee, I have advocated for Iraqi and Afghans who have served side by side as our allies to be prioritized to access visas. It is Congress' role to write our immigration laws and I strongly urge the President to work with Congress moving forward as we reform our immigration system to strengthen our homeland security.

*Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio)

While I agree with the President that we must improve our visa vetting process in order to better protect Americans, I believe the executive order risks violating our nation's values and fails to differentiate mainstream Islamic partners from radical Islamic terrorists—setting back our fight against radical Islam. I urge the Administration to quickly replace this temporary order with permanent improvements in the visa vetting process.

*Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.)

I fully support strengthening our screening processes and securing our borders, but this Executive Order needs to be scaled back. It has created real confusion for travelers and those who enforce the laws. I have heard from a number of local folks with valid concerns for themselves or loved ones as well from global companies that have legitimate worries relating to the international travel of their employees. A wiser course would have been to work with Congress to ensure that all visitors to our nation are properly vetted with appropriate documentation. Moving forward, I will continue to advocate for common-sense, bipartisan policies that protect America but also stay true to our values.

Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.)

The language of the order should not apply to legal permanent residents of the United States, and if it is being enforced in any other way, the administration should step in swiftly to clarify.