Arizona’s two U.S. senators quickly emerged as the leading Republican opposition to President Donald Trump’s order suspending the admission of all refugees for 120 days and blocking the entry of citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries.
The order also indefinitely bars Syrian refugees from entering the U.S.
In separate statements, U.S. John McCain and U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake called Trump’s order a “self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism” and “unacceptable,” respectively.
McCain and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina slammed the president’s order as not properly vetted, and “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,” the duo said.
The executive order bars entry for the next three months of citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.
As the order went into effect, confusion at international airports ensued as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security enforced the policy. The White House later clarified that Green Card holders from the affected countries will undergo additional screening, but will otherwise be allowed to return to the U.S.
The American Civil Liberties Union swiftly challenged the order and won a temporary victory when a federal judge in New York issued a stay, saying authorities may not remove affected immigrants who had already arrived in US airports.
Protests against the ban also erupted at international airports across the nation.
“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,” McCain and Graham said.
Meanwhile, Flake called the order “unacceptable when even legal permanent residents are being detained or turned away at airports and ports of entry.”
He added: “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.”
So far, only Rep. Trent Franks, who represents Arizona’s 8th Congressional District, and Andy Biggs, who represents the state’s 5th Congressional District, have embraced Trump’s executive order.
Later, Rep. Martha McSally, who represents Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District, said she serves on a Congressional task force focused on combating ISIS that has found “very real and dangerous gaps” in the U.S. vetting processes and noted “vulnerabilities” expressed by intelligence officials.
“(That) is why taking a comprehensive look at them is prudent and should be expected of any new administration,” she said. “However, I have concerns about certain individuals being denied entry, such as green card holders, those who served alongside our military, and partner military service members who train here, such as Iraqi pilots in Tucson. Those issues must be addressed and remedied immediately.”
Others Republican members of Arizona’s House delegation have remained silent.
“Once the implementation has been smoothed out, the Executive Order will ultimately ensure those who want to come to America, those who respect and share our values, will find a welcome refuge through ‘the golden door,’” Franks said.
“Those tired, poor, and huddled masses, those homeless and tempest-tossed, who are willing to respect our Constitution and way of life, will be granted asylum and maybe even a new home. Those who wish to do us harm or who despise the values which make us great will no longer be naively welcomed with open arms,” he said.
Franks’ spokeswoman, Destiny Edwards, said the congressman does not want to see Green Card holders denied entry back to the U.S.
Biggs also embraced Trump’s order, citing the growth of “radical Islamic” terrorism and how that has changed the dangers facing the world.
Following the attacks on September 11 and other terrorist acts from around the world, vetting immigrants to ensure they pose no security threat “has never been higher,” he said.
“While President Trump’s order needs clarification and Congressional oversight, it is within his constitutional authority and fulfills a need for stricter vetting of immigrants,” Biggs said, adding this is what Trump promised during the campaign.
Democrats, on the other hand, immediately decried the order.
Rep. Ruben Gallego, who represents Arizona’s 7th Congressional District, joined a protest at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on Sunday afternoon. In a news release, Gallego condemned the order, saying with the “stroke of his pen,” Trump has “turned away families fleeing the devastation of war, children who are today’s Anne Frank.”
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona’s 9th Congressional District, said Trump’s order “violates fundamental American values.”
“We do not turn our backs on families and children fleeing persecution, genocide, and war. They come to the U.S., they come to Arizona, for the same reasons our forefathers did – to live in a land of freedom, liberty and justice for all,” she said.
The White House is sticking by the order, and Trump took to Twitter to hit back at McCain and others who have criticized it.
“They are sadly weak on immigration,” he wrote. “[The two senators] should focus their energies on ISIS, illegal immigration and border security instead of always looking to start World War III.”