June 6, 2017

Republican Senator Collins: Muslim Ban is “Not the Right Way to Go.”

In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s outrageous tweetstorms following the recent terrorist attacks on London, a fissure may finally be developing between the Trump administration and certain Republican lawmakers over Trump’s Muslim ban.

Following both of Trump’s attempts to ban visas for Iranians and other targeted countries, nearly every single Democrat in Congress has sponsored legislation to repeal and defund the ban. But not one Republican has joined that effort and instead the President’s party has largely given its silent imprimatur for the ban. However, this is beginning to change.

Early this week, President Trump took to Twitter to express his frustrations, writing, “We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!” He continued to send a barrage of tweets, stating that “the Justice Dept. should have stayed with the original Travel Ban” rather than the “watered down, politically correct version they submitted [to the Supreme Court].”

This past weekend, it was evident that Trump’s Republican colleagues are starting to break with him. Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Susan Collins (R-ME) both spoke to the press this weekend, arguing that a travel ban is not the best course of action for United States security. During an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Senator Blunt noted, “It’s been four months since I said they needed four months to put that [extreme vetting] in place…I think you can do that without a travel ban and hopefully we are.” Similarly, while discussing the ban on “Face the Nation”, Senator Collins stated that while she supports a more rigorous vetting process, she does “believe that the very broad ban that [Trump] has proposed is not the right way to go.”

Collins has voiced her opposition to Trump and his policies since before the election. In January, she asserted that “there should never, never be a religious test for refugee status and people practicing a particular religion should not be subject to a higher burden of proof than those who adhere to another religion,” and referred to the policy as “likely unconstitutional.” But many in the Republican caucus expressed opposition during the presidential campaign to Trump’s calls for a Muslim ban. Everyone from Paul Ryan to Mike Pence criticized Trump’s pledge to ban Muslims as a candidate, but most have changed their tune since he was elected.

These new statements illustrate that perhaps we are approaching a breaking point and, at least for some Republicans, they have had enough.  Still, while these comments against the ban are a step in the right direction, no Republican has supported legislative action to actually halt the ban. And they have not yet said anything about the administration’s effort to create a framework to systematically discriminate against Muslims – effectively a “backdoor” Muslim ban that is being put in place.

The existing vetting process for obtaining a US immigration visa is already highly extensive and can take months to complete. Trump’s new “extreme vetting” proposal now in place aims to correct this allegedly inadequate system by ensuring that all new immigrants “share our values.” This includes measures such as providing five years worth of social media history. Since the president has made it clear that he believes “there is no real assimilation” with Muslim immigrants, this extreme vetting program seems to serve as a means to drive down the number of people from a Muslim background in the United States, rather than keeping out terrorists.  It is imperative that congressional Republicans and Democrats alike ensure that extreme vetting is not used as a cover for reaching the same ends as the travel ban.

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