Miami-Dade County

Some South Florida lawmakers remain silent on Trump refugee order

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks after signing executive orders related to a lobbying ban in the Oval Office on Saturday.
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks after signing executive orders related to a lobbying ban in the Oval Office on Saturday. Bloomberg

This story, originally published Saturday, was updated twice Sunday to include responses from most — but not all — local lawmakers.

What do South Florida politicians think about President Donald Trump’s extraordinary executive order on refugees?

It’s hard to say, because some lawmakers have been silent.

The Miami Herald asked the offices of local members of Congress to comment Saturday on Trump’s order from late Friday, which cut the number of refugee admissions into the U.S. in half, immediately barred all refugees from entering the the country for four months, indefinitely banned all Syrian refugees, and prohibited entry of visitors from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — all Muslim-majority countries — for 90 days.

“I’m establishing new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America,” Trump said Friday when he signed the order. “We don’t want them here.”

Implementation of the policy caused widespread confusion at major international airports, prompting some protests after people were detained. The American Civil Liberties Union sued Trump.

“It’s working out very nicely,” Trump said Saturday about his policy. “You see it at the airports, you see it all over.”

Dozens of people gathered at the Torch of Friendship in downtown Miami on Thursday night, Jan. 26, 2017, to protest President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, including building a border wall with Mexico and banning Muslims from entering the U

As of noon Monday, the Herald had received comment or spotted social-media responses from nine lawmakers. Four came from Republicans; the first was from U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Miami, who didn’t vote for Trump and took a cautious, middle-of-the-road approach to the president’s policy while sounding a note of caution about the apparent targeting of Muslim immigrants. Another Miami Republican who didn’t back Trump, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, said outright she objected to the seven-country visa suspensions.

Nationally, some Republicans are criticizing Trump’s order, but most have stayed quiet, The Washington Post reported Saturday.

Three South Florida Democrats blasted Trump on Saturday.

What the local lawmakers said is listed below. This story will be updated when — and if — more legislators decide to weigh in.

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami:

I am struck by the double standard and hypocrisy of those who are offended by this executive order, but who failed to challenge President Obama when he took similar action against Cuban refugees; especially since President Obama’s action was meant to appease the Castro regime and not for national security reasons.

While it is always legitimate to express concerns with presidential executive orders, I understand the President’s primary responsibility is to keep the American people safe. The ban is only temporary until the Administration can review and enact the necessary procedures to vet immigrants from these countries. The ban is based on countries the Obama administration identified as ‘countries of concern’ and not based on a religious test.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida:

We have to do everything we can to protect ourselves from those who want to do us harm, but a hastily-issued policy that bans everyone from one of these seven countries from entering the U.S. — including the Iraqi interpreters who served alongside our troops in Iraq — is not the answer.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida (issued in conjunction with U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina):

After reviewing the recent Executive Orders, it is clear to us that some of what is being said and reported about the scope and implications of these measures is misleading. However, it is also clear that the manner in which these measures were crafted and implemented have greatly contributed to the confusion, anxiety and uncertainty of the last few days.

We generally support additional vetting for many of those entering our country from nations where the United States has identified there are serious concerns regarding terrorist activities and planning. But given the broad scope and nature of these policy changes, we have some unanswered questions and concerns.

We are seeking clarity on the changes to the Visa Waiver program, which is critical to the economies of our respective states.

And we are uneasy about the potential impact of these measures on our military and our diplomatic personnel abroad, as well as those who put their lives on the line to work with us.

We are both committed to doing what we must to keep America safe. We are equally committed to the defense of religious liberty and our tradition of providing refuge to those fleeing persecution. Like so many Americans, we are both guided by our belief that when we stand before our Creator to face judgment, He will say that “to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me."

That is why we intend to do all we can to both keep America safe, and keep America special.

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami:

The United States is and has always been a generous nation when it comes to welcoming those who seek refuge and want to contribute. I expect that these executive orders are in fact temporary and that after the Administration strengthens the vetting process, we can continue our tradition of welcoming those who are persecuted in an orderly manner and without any kind of religious test.

Curbelo expanded on his statement from Saturday with a tweet Sunday:

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton:

Our nation has a proud history of welcoming refugees from around the world fleeing horrific conditions in their home countries, and escaping extreme violence and persecution to seek safety in the United States.

In a direct attack on this proudly American value, the President’s executive order on refugees starts a period in which the United States closes its doors to the most vulnerable people, including children, seeking safety in our country.

Our top priority is guaranteeing the safety and security of the American people, and I believe we need a thorough and comprehensive vetting process for all people seeking asylum or refuge.

However, the President’s decision - to slam the door on all refugees for four months and Muslim refugees indefinitely, and to cut by more than half the number of refugees seeking safe haven this year — will leave thousands of vulnerable families and children around the world in limbo, leaving them to suffer horrific atrocities and persecution.

This will mean the LGBT individual from Uganda or any country that criminalizes homosexuality, and the thousands of Baha’i, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim refugees persecuted in Iran, would continue to live in fear of persecution without any hope of being welcomed in our country where Lady Liberty’s torch will no longer light a path toward freedom.

This Executive Order will not strengthen our national security, but it will leave thousands of families vulnerable to violence and suffering. Our nation has shut its doors to those fleeing violence before. We should not return to those days.

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach:

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami:

I object to the suspension of visas from the seven named countries because we could have accomplished our objective of keeping our homeland safe by immediate implementation of more thorough screening procedures. I do note, however, that at least some individuals will continue to be admitted during this suspension period on a case by case basis and that the suspension period is temporary. In no case should this order be applied to individuals to whom visas have already been issued or who are already permanent legal US residents.

Ros-Lehtinen, who provided her statement Saturday, expanded on it Sunday:

Both the letter and the spirit of the rule of law, on which our liberties rest, require that we honor legal commitments and procedures established by law, including existing visas and approved refugee status, absent specific articulable reasons for reversing a prior decision. The new Administration needs to pay careful attention to crafting orders that honor existing legal commitments and existing law, in contrast to this broad brush approach which doesn't focus on the precise problems.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston:

Wasserman Schultz followed up to her tweet from Saturday with a statement Sunday:

The fact that President Trump failed to even mention Jews or antisemitism in his statement commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day was insensitive, disappointing and trampled on the memory of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazi's during the Holocaust.

But his omission is far more troubling in light of the fact that he chose that same day to ban Syrian refugees, halt all refugee admissions to the United States, and temporarily suspend all visa holders from seven Muslim-majority countries. It’s an egregious ignorance of history, at the very least. But regardless of that, these are unacceptable actions to take on any day. We weaken our nation by turning our back on those fleeing from religious, political and violent oppression. We are a nation of immigrants, and we cannot quietly accept this.

As a representative of tens of thousands of immigrants, I will stand with my immigrant and non-immigrant constituents and fight this unconstitutional and immoral policy with every ounce of energy I have. As the granddaughter of immigrants who fled persecution in Eastern Europe, I will not allow history to repeat itself by barring people fleeing for their lives and watch them perish because America turned our backs.

Never Again means something to me even when it clearly means nothing to President Trump and his administration.

U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami Gardens:

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