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Area lawmakers, officials divided on executive order

Stance on ban drawn along party lines

posted Jan. 31, 2017 12:00 a.m. (CDT)
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by / Chris Vetter. bio | email

Wisconsin Republicans defended President Trump’s temporary immigration ban Monday, while Democrats decried the executive order that would keep people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States.

Brian Westrate, 3rd District Republican Party chairman, stressed that the executive order is not an indefinite ban.

“This is not a ban on Muslims. It’s not even close to it,” Westrate said. “It’s a 120-day moratorium on seven specific nations. It’s only reasonable, in my opinion.”

One of Trump’s cornerstones of his campaign was protecting America’s borders. Westrate said this executive order is following up on that promise.

“Arguably, the first duty of the president is the safety of the American people,” Westrate said.

Westrate had no problem with the executive order taking effect immediately either. He said it doesn’t make sense to announce it and say it would begin in 10 days, which would give people nine days to enter the country.

“It’s never too soon or too quick to protect the American people,” Westrate said. “We need to have legitimate conversations about the numbers entering our country. This is not an anti-immigration stance, or an anti-Muslim stance; this is an anti-terrorism stance.”

However, U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, said the order taking effect immediately “set off confusion and led to unnecessary detentions for families and travelers across the United States.”

“President Trump’s executive order blocking refugees and people from select Muslim countries from entering the United States does not reflect who we are as a nation,” Kind said it a statement Monday. “We cannot start discriminating based on religion. Instead of helping keep our country safe it will jeopardize our national security by giving ISIS and other terror groups another recruitment tool and making it harder for our allies in Muslim nations to work with us on counter-terrorism operations. I am calling on President Trump to immediately suspend his executive order until Congress has had a chance to review the order.”

State Rep. Dana Wachs, D-Eau Claire, was frustrated, saying the executive order was unfair.

“People were on their way, in the air, when that went into effect,” Wachs said. “Those people had already cleared the State Department and the FBI background checks. These people often sell all their possessions to get on that plane, and then they get turned around.”

Wachs said the United States has an obligation to help people who have assisted the U.S., which has now put them and their families in harm’s way.

“This is very myopic — it doesn’t fit with any cohesive macro-policy,” Wachs said. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat, also criticized the executive order in a tweet, saying, “Welcoming refugees strengthens America’s connection with freedom, the foundation of who we are as a people. It’s wrong to turn our back on our American values and the rest of the world. We are better than this.”

U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wausau, defended the executive order.

“Radical Islamic terror groups like ISIS openly exploit the West’s refugee programs to incite or carry out acts of terrorism,” Duffy said in a statement released Monday. “We deserve to know who enters or leaves our country, as well as their intent. President Trump is fulfilling a campaign promise to re-evaluate our visa vetting process so that the American people are safe from terrorism.”

State Rep. Kathy Bernier, R-Lake Hallie, agreed that the executive order is Trump following through on a campaign promise.

“Bottom line, it’s something folks elected him to do,” Bernier said. “His goal is to safeguard the United States from terrorists. We elected a president to do something and not just bow down to political correctness.”

Bernier added that early estimates show 109 people nationwide were turned away, saying that many people are overstating the impact of the measure.

Gov. Scott Walker sided with Trump in a statement issued Monday. 

“This is a safety issue,” Walker said. “A resettlement program to help refugees is compassionate and one that I support, but we should ensure we are doing everything possible to put the safety of our citizens first.”

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson didn’t respond to calls for comment Monday.

Contact: 715-723-0303, chris.vetter@ecpc.com