RICHMOND — Rep. Tom Garrett, R-5th District, joined many fellow Republicans on Monday in backing President Donald Trump’s immigration order, although he lightly criticized the administration’s roll-out.
Garrett, a freshman Homeland Security Committee member, said he learned through news reports about Trump’s Friday order to ban citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries — Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen — from entering the United States for 90 days. The order also suspends refugee admissions into the country for 120 days.
“It was a complete messaging failure by the administration in how they put it out,” Garrett said in a phone interview Monday evening. “… Once we figured out what happened … it wasn’t nearly as ‘the sky is falling’ as some would have us believe.”
The Friday announcement sparked demonstrations by Democrats, pro-immigration advocates and attorneys, including a protest at Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, D.C. While many people protested the order as a whole, of particular concern were green card holders, who were detained for hours after trying to re-enter the country, according to numerous media reports.
Anyone who has a legal right to be in the United States, including green card holders, only should be detained if there is a reason to believe they as an individual have committed or may commit a crime, Garrett said.
“I think it happened because of the inartful dissemination of the intention of the order,” Garrett said. The “left” overreacted, he said.
Garrett fully supports the order he and other Republicans have called a “pause.”
“ISIS has indicated its wishes to use the refugee system to infiltrate western nations. Our office has received information to substantiate these claims,” Garrett said in a statement. “With this in mind, a temporary pause for further review of the program only serves to fulfill the United States government’s first responsibility to protect its citizens.”
When asked in June on the congressional campaign trail about Trump’s previous call for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the country, Garrett said he wouldn’t support a religious test but supported one from countries with “an active Muslim war-making effort.”
This order, he said, is not a religious test but one based on nationality.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-6th District, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees immigration policy, was not consulted ahead of the order’s roll-out, according to a Goodlatte aide. A Goodlatte spokeswoman could not be reached for comment.
“It’s sensible to hit pause on admitting foreign nationals and refugees from countries where adequate screening cannot occur, and it’s long past time for the completion of the Entry-Exit system in order to crack down on those who overstay their visas,” Goodlatte said in a statement Friday.
Both congressmen serving the Lynchburg area are in position to contribute to the discussion following the quickly implemented suspension order.
In a statement emailed from a spokeswoman Monday, Goodlatte said he looks forward to working with Trump “to take legislative action in Congress to further enhance border security.”
The Homeland Security Committee has not met yet since the order went out but will later this week, Garrett said.
“I expect it will be a very busy meeting,” he said in the interview.