Dear Mr. Gavaler:
Thank you for contacting me concerning President Trump’s recent executive orders to strengthen national security at our borders. These executive orders were drafted to close gaping holes in our nation’s visa screening programs, the refugee resettlement program, and other components of our immigration system. I appreciate hearing from you.
On January 27, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order suspending admission of aliens from seven countries deemed by the Obama Administration to be “countries of concern” for terrorist activity. Those countries were Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The Order also suspended refugee admissions for a period of 120 days and indefinitely suspended Syrian refugee admissions.
As you may know, a federal district court issued a temporary restraining order blocking the implementation of the January 27th executive order. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the restraining order. On March 6, President Trump signed a revised executive order meant to replace the January Order. The March 6th executive order made changes in response to the concerns of the Ninth Circuit. For instance, the order clarified that lawful permanent resident admissions of aliens from the listed countries would not be prevented from entering the U.S. Iraq was removed from the list of affected countries after the Iraqi government committed to provide the U.S. adequate vetting information for Iraqi visa applicants. In addition, the revised executive order does not indefinitely suspend the admission of Syrian refugees.
The revised executive order was to take effect on March 16. However, the U.S. District Court in Hawaii issued a nationwide temporary restraining order preventing implementation. Other courts have subsequently ruled on the issue. To be clear, this executive order is constitutional and consistent with the U.S. law. Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) gives the President broad authority to suspend entry of aliens. Specifically, the provision states “Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens, or any class of aliens, as immigrants or nonimmigrants or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem appropriate.” This provision in the INA has been utilized multiple times by previous presidents of both political parties.
Some people have interpreted these actions as a “ban” on Muslim immigration. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the 90-day suspension of entry for aliens applies only to aliens from the six countries, and applies to all nationals of those countries, not just those who practice the Islamic faith.
Based on heightened terrorist threats against the U.S., it makes sense to temporarily halt some admissions in order to take an inventory of security measures we, and other countries, have in place to help prevent those seeking to do us harm from entering our country. Numerous foreign nationals who have been convicted of, or implicated in, terrorism-related crimes have been admitted to the U.S. as refugees, immigrants, and nonimmigrants over the past several years. It simply makes no sense to wait until a terrorist attack is successfully carried out before taking reasonable steps to prevent such an attack.
The primary duty of the federal government is to keep Americans safe. President Trump’s executive order fulfills this responsibility by taking a number of critical steps within his authority to strengthen national security and the integrity of our nation’s immigration system. ISIS has vowed to use the immigration system to inflict harm, so it’s imperative that we know who is coming and going from our country.
Furthermore, there are some who believe the United States should overlook national security concerns and admit anyone who seeks to enter our country. While the United States has always welcomed immigrants to our shores, and will do so moving forward, our country should also remain vigilant as we maintain the world’s most generous immigration system and refugee resettlement program. The safety and security of the American people is paramount. I am pleased that President Trump is using the tools granted to him by Congress and the power granted by the Constitution to help keep America safe and to ensure we know who is entering the United States.
I believe it is sensible to pause the admission of foreign nationals from countries where adequate screening cannot occur. I look forward to continuing to work with the President to reform our immigration system to ensure the safety and security of our great nation.
I appreciate you taking the time to contact me. I believe it is important to keep an open line of communication so I can best serve the interests of Virginia’s 6th District. I hope you will continue to be in touch as the 115th Congress debates issues of importance to the United States. Please feel free to contact me whenever I may be of assistance.
Member of Congress