Support for President Donald Trump’s executive orders this weekend that deal with immigration from certain Mideast countries has polarized South Carolina’s congressional delegation — with even members of Trump’s own party divided on whether the order was critical or went too far.
The order halts any new refugees for the next four months until the program can be reviewed and imposes a 90-day ban on immigration from Iran and the war-torn countries of Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. There are questions about whether the ban affects legal American residents from those countries (also known as “green-card holders”), with the White House saying the U.S. Department of Homeland Security can review those instances on a case-by-case basis and DHS officials saying the order does not cover “green cards.”
U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan has been Trump’s most reliable ally in the South Carolina delegation and he wholly endorsed the order. “It has been well reported that people from other countries are even attempting to pose as Syrian refugees in order to gain access to Europe and the United States,” he wrote on Facebook. “While many of these people are doing this in hopes of achieving a better life, there are numerous recorded instances of terrorists disguising themselves as refugees in order to enter other countries.”
South Carolina’s senior U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham condemned the plan as counterproductive to the fight against radical Islam. “Ultimately, I fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism,” he said in a Twitter post. Graham has also vowed to assist Nazanin Zinouri — a Greenville resident from Iran who said she has not been allowed to return to South Carolina since the order took effect.
Junior senator U.S. Sen. Tim Scott released a joint statement with seatmate Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. “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,” the pair wrote, in reference to former Iraqi and Afghan translators who were also blocked by the order. “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.”
U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy released a statement Monday largely backing the national security argument given in support of the ban, but stopped short of actively endorsing the plan. “American people deserve border and interior security,” he stated. “They deserve to know who is coming to our country, for what purpose, and for how long. They deserve to be assured those seeking entry into the country – regardless of the length of stay – have been vetted thoroughly and do not represent a security risk.”
Mark Sanford also did not comment on the underlying basis for the ban, but criticized the way that the White House had signed the order without consulting Congress or its own agency heads at the Defense Department or Department of Homeland Security. “I’m hearing a voice of concern that things are moving from weird to reckless in their view,” he said, in reference to calls from constituents. “And that even if you’re going to enact this policy, the way in which it was done just seems bizarre.”
The only South Carolina Democrat in Congress, as expected, also opposes the ban. “Acceptance of all religious backgrounds and nationalities is the core of what this country stands for. That must not change,” read a post on U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn’s Twitter account.