McAuliffe, local representatives denounce Trump refugee ban

DULLES, Va. (AP/WAVY) — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is denouncing President Donald Trump’s decision to suspend the nation’s refugee program for four months and indefinitely bar Syrians from entering the country.

The Democrat said during a press conference at Dulles International Airport on Saturday that he has asked Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring to look into “all legal remedies” available to help individuals who may be detained in Virginia. McAuliffe released the following statement:

“I am outraged and disappointed by the actions President Trump has taken to ban travelers from certain Muslim nations and to close our country to families seeking refuge from persecution. This executive order is antithetical to the values that make America great, and it will make our country less safe.

“On behalf of the people of Virginia, I urge President Trump and leaders in Washington to reverse this policy and restore our nation to its place as a beacon of opportunity for all. In the meantime, my administration will work with Attorney General Mark Herring to identify any and all legal steps we can take to oppose this dangerous and divisive policy.”

McAuliffe said a family has been detained at the airport but he did not provide further details. McAuliffe called Trump’s action “discriminatory,” saying it will “breed hatred toward Americans around the globe.”

Trump also instituted a 90-day ban on travel to the U.S. by citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.

ODU professor Donald Smith used to teach in Syria and said he knew people who fled the country. He believes the ban makes America less safe.

“I’m in favor of security… I’m a criminal justice professor. I’m in favor of all that… But it’s just chaos and ignorance the way this was done… Like everyone else in the world, there are some Syrian people you don’t want to let in this country and there are Syrian people that are just fine to let in this country. Use the vetting process fairly and honestly,” Professor Smith said.

Several state representatives and senators have responded to Trump’s suspension of the country’s refugee program:

Sen. Tim Kaine (D)

“I am appalled by the cruelty the Trump Administration has demonstrated over the past 24 hours. If we turn our backs on widows and orphans fleeing the very evil we despise, we do not defeat our enemies; we surrender to them”

Sen. Mark Warner (D)

“The Trump Administration executive order that indefinitely suspends the Syrian refugee program and pauses visas from Muslim countries runs counter to our American values. While I have always been open to a pause on our refugee program to ensure appropriate time for intelligence and law enforcement experts to ensure we protect our national security, these actions by the President presume the solution before the review is complete. It is a policy targeting Muslims that national security experts have testified would harm, not help, our national security interests. I join the interfaith community in Virginia and around the country in objecting to these moves, and I will work in Congress to block an effort which trades dubious increases in U.S. security for certain alienation of partners with whom we must cooperate to address terrorism.”

Rep. Bobby Scott (D)

“President Trump’s immigration executive order runs afoul of American values and our constitution by essentially creating a religious test for entry into the United States and denying due process to green card holders who have been unable to reenter the country.  Furthermore, by slamming the door shut to refugees fleeing unimaginable violence overrunning Syria and Iraq, the President has seriously damaged the moral credibility of the United States and only bolstered anti-American sentiment that is a key recruitment tool for terrorist organizations, such as ISIS.”

Rep. Donald McEachin (D)

“With the issuance of this executive order, President Trump has destroyed his moral authority to govern. The Declaration of Independence says all men are created equal. Our Constitution says we shall not favor any religion over another. And yet, the president has instituted a religious test for entry into this country.

Moreover, and every bit as tragic, as the words inscribed on the statue of liberty remind us “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” this is a country of refugees from the Separatists who landed in Plymouth almost four hundred years ago, through a kaleidoscope and fabric of immigrants and refugees since then, this country has been built by hard-working families coming to make a better life.”

Attorney General Mark Herring (D)

“This order is in direct conflict with the most foundational principles of our country and our Commonwealth. For generations, the United States has been a beacon of hope and a safe harbor for those in need. President Trump is dimming that light and slamming the door in the face of vulnerable people fleeing unimaginable circumstances. He is also sending a terrible signal to minority communities that they too could be the target of his ire and telling Muslims in Virginia and around the country that they are inferior because of their faith. That is simply shameful.”

Rep. Rob Wittman (R)

“The safety and security of Virginians is my greatest concern and top priority. We have a long history of standing for religious freedom and providing a safe haven for many of the world’s most vulnerable refugees. It’s part of who we are as a nation. However, we must ensure terrorists aren’t able to exploit refugee resettlement to gain entry to the U.S.

“We need to be clear about what this executive order says and does and what it does not. Since its disorderly rollout, we have learned from Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly that this executive order will not prevent lawful green card holders from returning to the United States. This is a temporary pause on refugee resettlement from a select group of war-torn, volatile countries, as first identified by the Obama Administration, that are known to harbor and export terrorists. During the pause in refugee resettlement our national security agencies will conduct a review of the vetting process to ensure that anyone entering the United States does not pose a national security risk. Once that review is completed and the best, most thorough vetting process is in place, refugee resettlement may continue.

“Going forward I will continue to advocate for the values that have defined our nation and protect our homeland.”

Rep. Scott Taylor (R)

“I believe in the promise that is America and in the Constitution I defended and continue to defend. A ban on Muslims is unconstitutional. Having spent years across the Middle East, and literally having my life in Muslim hands numerous times, I know that religion alone is not the sole test of an individual’s character.

“The President’s executive order does not ban Muslims; simply read the text. The previous administration grew exponentially and expedited refugee programs, failed to work at the root cause, and made America less safe. Millions of Americans became uneasy and frightened with their policies. While I do not agree with some of the rhetoric, taking a pause, figuring out if we are properly vetting people, and making changes if necessary to continue our American principles is prudent and needed. The safety and protection of our citizens must remain our number one priority.”

WAVY.com contributed to this report.