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Here’s Where Texas Politicians Stand On Donald Trump’s Refugee Ban

Democrats are mostly against it, Republicans are mostly for it, and Governor Abbott has remained silent.

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Protesters gather to denounce President Donald Trump's executive order that bans certain immigration, at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on January 28, 2017 in Dallas, Texas.
G. Morty Ortega/Getty

On Friday evening, President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States and halting the country’s acceptance of refugees. The move prompted immediate protests in airports across the country—including here in Texas—as U.S.-bound people from the banned nations were detained, deported, or prevented from boarding their planes.

While many were quick to respond in protest, our state’s elected officials took considerably longer to let their constituents know where they stand. Many Democratic leaders came out against the ban. Plenty of Republicans came out in support, though some of the state’s top leaders remained silent as of Wednesday afternoon. Here’s a list of who has said what, including the notable names who have been notably quiet.

Senator Ted Cruz said that he was in favor of the ban on Monday, issuing a press release applauding what he described as “stronger vetting procedures for refugees.”

“I commend President Trump for rejecting Obama’s willful blindness, and for acting swiftly to try to prevent terrorists from infiltrating our refugee programs,” Cruz said in the statement, which you can read in full here. “In contrast to the hysteria and mistruths being pushed by the liberal media, President Trump’s executive order implements a four-month pause in refugee admissions so that stronger vetting procedures can be put in place. This is a commonsense step that the American people overwhelmingly support. The executive order also calls for the prioritization of religious minorities, a welcome change from an Obama administration that functionally discriminated against religious minorities, who are especially vulnerable to persecution and genocide.”

Cruz’s senate colleague, John Cornyn, was far more tentative in supporting the ban. According to the Dallas Morning News, Cornyn told reporters on Monday that he was critical of the way the order was rolled out. “They got into a big hurry,” Cornyn said, “But public safety is the No. 1 responsibility of the federal government, so I certainly support the vetting of refugees coming into the country.”

U.S. Representative and Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee Michael McCaul was among the first to support the ban, saying in a statement released on Friday night that the order would “help prevent jihadists from infiltrating the United States.”

But McCaul slightly walked back his support on Sunday amid protests and chaos as law enforcement agencies struggled to grapple with the scope of the order, which was implemented without warning. “It is clear adjustments are needed,” McCaul said. “We should not simply turn away individuals who already have lawful U.S. visas or green cards…We must be focused instead on putting in place tougher screening measures to weed out terror suspects while facilitating the entry of peaceful, freedom-loving people of all religions who see the United States as a beacon of hope.”

A spokesperson for McCaul told McClatchy D.C. on Tuesday that the executive order was based on a white paper written by McCaul and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, which was submitted to Trump during the presidential campaign last fall. Apparently McCaul explicitly warned against implementing a travel ban that singled out Muslims, as the executive order eventually did (a provision in the order called to “prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality”). “The white paper did talk about the idea of a Muslim ban, but in the context of what a bad idea that was,” McCaul spokeswoman Susan Phalen told McClatchy. “More than half of the memo was about how borderline unconstitutional a Muslim ban would be.” McCaul did not make a copy of the memo available to McClatchy.

East Texas U.S. Representative Louie Gohmert came out strongly in favor of the Muslim ban, and was sharply critical of it being characterized as a Muslim ban:

“The refugee program the President has paused is the same one that ISIS terrorists have repeatedly vowed that they are infiltrating and intending to use to kill Americans,” Gohmert said in a written statement (full text available here). It should be noted that no refugees from any of the countries impacted by the ban have carried out a fatal terrorist attack in the United States. “The President is acting temporarily and prudently to give his Administration and Congress the much needed time to properly evaluate the refugee program and reform it to ensure that it both helps legitimate refugees and ensures the safety of the American people,” Gohmert said.

A bunch of GOP Texas U.S. representatives, including Ted Poe, Sam Johnson, John RatcliffeJeb Hensarling, John Culberson, Brian Babin, Pete Sessions, Jodey Arrington, Roger Williams, Joe Barton, Michael Burgess, Bill Flores, Lamar Smith, Blake Farenthold, Kay Granger, Kevin Brady, John Carter, Michael Conaway, and Pete Olson, gave their support of the ban, while Randy Weber has remained silent on the issue so far.

We’ll call Representative Mac Thornberry‘s stance a toss-up. The Republican gave the following statement to the Texas Tribune, which is difficult to interpret as either a display of support for the executive order or a criticism: “It is understandable that the new Administration would want to temporarily pause admitting refugees in order to assess the vetting process. Less understandable, however, is issuing an order with so much confusion and uncertainty that even legal permanent residents and those who have helped our troops are caught up in the chaos. It is important to have a clear, detailed implementation plan for such policy directives.”

U.S. Representative Will Hurd has been the only Texan Republican congressman so far to openly oppose the travel ban, saying in a statement that the order “does not make us safer; rather it decreases the security of our homeland and endangers the lives of thousands of American men and women in our Military, diplomatic corps and intelligence services.”

“As an undercover CIA officer I spent most of my adult life chasing down terrorists that would do our homeland and U.S. Citizens harm, so I know how important it is to cooperate with foreign allies to get the job done,” Hurd continued (you can read the full statement here). “We cannot fight the scourge of Islamic Extremism alone, and to prevent terrorists from having safe havens from which to plot, plan and train for attacks on the United States, we need to work with all allies around the world.  This visa ban is the ultimate display of mistrust and will erode our allies’ willingness to fight with us. The ban also provides terrorists with another tool to gain sympathy and recruit new fighters.”

Most of Texas’s Democratic representatives in congress also opposed the ban, including Henry Cuellar, Lloyd Doggett, Al Green, Gene Green, Sheila Jackson Lee, Bernice Johnson, Beto O’Rourke, Marc Veasey, Filemon Vela, and Joaquin Castro.

So far, the only Democratic congressman from Texas who has remained silent about the ban is Representative Vicento Gonzalez. But the trio of Texas’s top state politicos has also been quiet. Governor Greg Abbott hasn’t commented publicly, and did not respond to several requests for a statement from Texas Monthly. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton have been similarly tight-lipped.

The mayors of Texas’s biggest cities have unanimously opposed the ban, including Mike Rawlings of Dallas, Sylvester Turner of Houston, Steve Adler of Austin, and San Antonio’s Ivy Taylor.

Did we miss anyone? Let us know!

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