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Congressman Tom Garrett

Representing the 5th District of Virginia

Falsely calling the recent immigration pause a "Muslim ban" is dangerous

February 13, 2017
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In 1947, Senator Arthur Vandenberg famously stated that “politics stop at the water’s edge.” What that meant was that partisan infighting should cease when it compromises American interests abroad and indeed when it compromises the safety and well-being of Americans at home.

Over the weeks I have heard my Democrat colleagues referring to a “Muslim ban.” Interestingly, when President Obama heightened screening of individuals from the same seven nations because of ‘the growing threat of foreign terrorist fighters’, there was no resistance. Now I hear my Democrat friends saying that a “Muslim ban” will serve as a recruiting tool for ISIS and make Americans less safe at home and abroad. I AGREE. TALK of a “Muslim ban” will have those consequences but I would submit there is in fact NO Muslim ban. So for anyone to use partisan political tactics to perpetuate a falsehood that endangers American lives is shameful.

The facts are simple. Of the 2.3 billion Muslims on the planet, just over 10% live in the nations outlined by President Trump’s immigration pause. Further, nowhere in this particular order was there any reference to a “Muslim ban.” Each of these seven nations faced restrictions by the Obama Administration just two years ago and as such, served as the framework for President Trump’s order. Following those actions by President Obama, FBI Director James Comey went on record saying while we have strong measures in place, there is still no way to adequately vet people coming through these programs to properly ensure no one will slip between the cracks.

I spoke with a constituent recently who told me refugees have a right to flee a nation that threatens their family. To be clear, I am sympathetic to any individual who wants to come to this great nation in pursuit of a better life, and I encourage that. However, there is absolutely no Constitutional or fundamental right to become an American citizen or immigrate to this nation – it is a privilege, and a great one at that.

Another constituent spoke with my staff recently and told them that individuals on the terrorist “no fly” list are more dangerous than refugees and we should get rid of those people before pausing refugee resettlement. What we are talking about with regard to the secret “no fly” list, are legitimate American citizens who have not been convicted of a crime but the government classifies them as high risk. One of our basic Constitutional rights ensures innocence until proven guilty and we cannot strip our citizens of rights or kick them out of the country for no reason. However, many of the terrorist attacks that have happened on our homeland, such as the Pulse Night Club shooting, came from individuals who were being monitored by the FBI – so the potential to revisit laws on the books to further investigate high risk individuals is something we should entertain. But the “no fly” list itself is heavily flawed with U.S. Senators and children mistakenly being added to this list over the years. My point is simple, when we are having these discussions, it needs to be clearly understood that the job of the federal government is to take every possible legal measure to keep our citizens safe.

Following the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to halt this order, it is important to look at this issue from every angle as we move forward. I have been critical of the way President Trump has rolled out a few of these orders because when done so quickly, there are many issues that get lost in translation. However, he has a duty to take any measure he deems necessary to ensure the safety of this nation.

America is a nation founded by immigrants, and it is the collective experiences, cultures, and traditions from people of all walks of life that make this nation so great. We should and do welcome immigration. The recent move by the President does not take away from that, it merely puts a temporary pause on the system we have. This is needed to ensure we are taking every possible measure to prevent ISIS’ own declaration of using the refugee stream as an outlet to get more operatives inside the United States.

If politics do in fact stop at the water’s edge, then Republicans and Democrats alike should be working more closely to strengthen national security and still preserve the tremendous history of immigration in the process.

- Tom Garrett