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Trump’s immigration order divides Michigan House GOP

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — President Donald Trump’s immigration order has divided Michigan’s nine Republican congressmen, several of whom Monday called for the GOP administration to revise the directive.

The delegation’s senior Republican, Rep. Fred Upton of St. Joseph, said Trump’s order needs to be “scaled back,” noting he’s received calls from concerned constituents as well as global companies with “legitimate worries” for the international travel of their employees.

“I fully support strengthening our screening processes and securing our borders, but this executive order needs to be scaled back. It has created real confusion for travelers and those who enforce the laws,” Upton said in a statement. “A wiser course would have been to work with Congress to ensure that all visitors to our nation are properly vetted with appropriate documentation.”

Trump on Friday signed executive orders temporarily banning entry into the United States for all refugees and for migrants from seven Muslim-majority nations.

The president also suspended indefinitely the admission of refugees from war-torn Syria. Michigan ranked second behind California in admitting the most number of Syrian refugees in 2016, resettling nearly 1,700 last year, according to State Department data.

The controversy simmered Monday as acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates, a holdover from the Democratic Obama administration, said the U.S. Justice Department would not defend the refugee executive order in court. But the Yates’ order is not expected to last long if the Republican-controlled Senate votes to confirm Trump’s nominee Jeff Sessions for attorney general.

GOP Reps. Dave Trott of Birmingham and Jack Bergman of Watersmeet backed Trump’s order as necessary to maintain national security.

“That said, I believe we should work to maintain our status as a welcoming, sovereign nation for the unjustly persecuted and for those in countries of conflict who have risked their lives to support our armed forces,” Bergman said in a statement.

Rep. Justin Amash, R-Cascade Township, over the weekend said the directive was overreaching and unconstitutional.

Others, including Reps. Bill Huizenga of Zeeland, John Moolenaar of Midland and Tim Walberg of Tipton, said Trump needs to clarify the order to reduce confusion and allow for the admission of green-card holders.

“American citizens, lawful permanent residents with green cards, and those who have assisted our nation in the fight against radical Islamic terror should be handled in a manner much differently than those trying to immigrate or travel to the United States for the first time,” Huizenga said.

The White House on Sunday said green-card holders would be exempt on a case-by-case basis.

Rep. Mike Bishop, of Rochester, also urged clarification, while insisting that officials lack sufficient information to fully vet refugees from Syria and the other countries named in Trump’s order.

“While a pause is in place, we must strengthen our vetting process and immigration policies — and fast — so we can keep families together and bad actors out,” Bishop said in a statement.

Freshman Rep. Paul Mitchell, of Dryden, commended Trump for “his commitment to ensuring we know exactly who is entering the country.” Mitchell also said the order as written and implemented was not sufficiently clear and had “unintended consequences.”

The delegation’s five Democrats on Monday called on Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette to join 16 other attorneys general from around the country in legally challenging the constitutionality of Trump’s orders on refugees and visas. The Democrats argue that the order violates not only the U.S. Constitution but the state constitution’s prohibition on discrimination based on religion, race, color and national origin.

“The people of Michigan deserve to know that they will not be subject to arbitrary detention and deportation merely based on their religion,” the lawmakers wrote.

“As attorney general, you must speak out and use your office to challenge President Trump’s executive order, which is a clear violation of the constitutional rights of your constituents.”

The Trump administration and its supporters, including Schuette, noted the executive order applies to all residents of the seven Muslim-majority countries.

“The United States must have an immigration policy that provides safety and security for our nation, that is hopeful to all new Americans and which discriminates against no one,” Schuette said late Monday on Facebook. “President Trump’s executive order is not a ban on Muslims, and he is placing the security of Americans first.”