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Oklahoma’s Congressional Delegation Reacts To Travel Ban Order

U.S. Rep. Steve Russell during a Feb. 3 House Oversight and Government Reform hearing.
Congressman Steve Russell
U.S. Rep. Steve Russell during a Feb. 3 House Oversight and Government Reform hearing.

Members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation have largely been supportive of President Donald Trump’s executive order that temporarily bans travel of certain foreign nationals to the United States.


Under the order, citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen would not be allowed to enter the United States for 90 days. Over the weekend, permanent resident visa holders were detained at airports, which led to protests across the country. The White House later said permanent resident visa holders are from those 7 countries will be allowed.


The order also places a 120 day freeze on the admission of refugees, and an indefinite halt on resettling Syrian refugees in the United States.


Congressman Steve Russell, R-Oklahoma City, says he supports the executive order.


Russell is a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel who saw combat in Iraq. He wants to make sure exemptions will be available for military interpreters, informers, and ousted political allies in the seven countries.


“We have to stand by them, or they could be at great risk. And if they were in the process of coming here, then I would hope we would be able to continue that process,” Rep. Russell told KGOU.


Russell also hopes there will be exemptions for children from those countries who have been wounded in war zones to come to  the United States temporarily for treatment. He says a bipartisan group of Congressional combat veterans will push for those exemptions through a letter to President Trump.


Russell says the order will allow time to investigate the vetting process.


“I’m willing to give the president his 90 or 120 days to examine this issue,” Russell said.


In a statement, Congressman Tom Cole, R-Moore, said the President’s action is intended to protect Americans. He admitted the initial implementation was “imperfect or uneven.” But he says the reaction, such as protests at cities and airports across the country, has been “all out of proportion to its intent and impact.”


Rep. Tom Cole’s full statement:


Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) released the following statement after President Donald Trump signed an executive order temporarily restricting persons entering the United States from seven nations: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan. These nations have been known to harbor terrorism and to have been compromised by terrorism. "President Trump's recent executive order temporarily prohibiting immigration from seven countries previously identified as terrorist havens and/or state sponsors of terrorism is clearly intended to protect the American people,” said Cole. “The threat it seeks to contain is real. Indeed ISIL/ISIS has said it intends to slip terrorists into fleeing refugee populations and appears to have done so in the past.” "However imperfect or uneven the initial implementation of President Trump's order, the reaction against it has been all out of proportion to its intent and impact," continued Cole. "Critics have described the order as a Muslim ban. It is not. It does not impact over 40 Muslim-majority countries. Some have claimed the order is illegal. It is not. While the courts will ultimately rule on this matter, it appears that the President is acting within the law and the recognized powers of the presidency. Some say the order is unprecedented. It is not. President Obama issued a similar "pause" on immigration from Iraq in 2011, while more intensive methods of vetting were devised and implemented to screen immigrants from that terror infested country. Finally, some have said the threat from these areas is minor. It is not. Indeed US forces are currently engaged in fighting terrorists in at least three of the countries in question - Iraq, Syria and Yemen.” "It is fair and appropriate to debate the merits of President Trump's executive order and its initial implementation. But it is inappropriate to engage in demagogic, inflammatory, inaccurate and reckless rhetoric that is designed to create and exploit a political issue rather than address a real threat to our security. I fear that is exactly what we are seeing from many of the President's critics."

Oklahoma Senator James Lankford said the order had unintended consequences that were not well thought out, and he encourages the Trump administration to evaluate policy with an eye on both security and compassion for refugees.



Senator Jim Inhofe called the travel ban “reasonable,” but says implementation should have been delayed to give airlines, travellers and agencies time to prepare.


From Inhofe’s website:


“President Trump’s executive order follows through on the promises made on the campaign trail to secure our country and protect our citizens,”Inhofe said. “This is not a Muslim ban, as the measure suspends all refugee admittance for 120 days and suspends the issuance of visas to nationals of seven specific countries for 90 days. Time and again terrorists have stated their intent to infiltrate refugee populations in order to spread their ideology and terror throughout the West, as has already happened in Europe. Furthermore, the pause on visa applicants for countries that Congress and the Departments of State and Homeland Security have determined as areas of concern to national security is reasonable given the unrest and state of instability in each of those countries. President Trump’s measures are temporary and will allow for the new administration to review and strengthen our immigration programs. The administration should have delayed implementation of this order so that the agencies, airlines and foreign travelers could have prepared and made arrangements in compliance, but I am confident these issues will be addressed swiftly to reduce confusion and uncertainty. The Trump administration is comprised of well-respected experts, and it is imperative that Senate Democrats immediately allow for the confirmation of his cabinet picks so that the President’s policies are well implemented. Throughout its history, the United States has been a beacon around the world for religious freedom and has welcomed those seeking refuge from persecution; our country will continue to be that beacon.”


Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Tulsa, also issued a statement about the order. From Bridenstine's website:


President Trump's Executive Order on immigration is simply a pause, similar to ones issued by previous presidents including Mr. Obama. The temporary pause affects only seven terror prone countries so we can better vet people coming into the United States. The goal is to balance security with access. There is no ban on any religion.


In a tweet, Rep. MarkwayneMullin, R-Westville, said, “We have a duty to our nation first.”




Rep. Frank Lucus, R-Yukon, supports the goal of the executive order, but believes the administration must further clarify their long term objectives and the manner in which they intend to implement these new travel restrictions.”


Full statement from Frank Lucas's website:

“Our country has a strong record of providing asylum to those fleeing war or oppression. However, we must also acknowledge that the world is a dangerous place. Far too many innocent civilians have fallen victim to organized terror attacks at home in their own communities. “When the FBI Director indicates that there are vulnerabilities in our country’s ability to screen foreign entrants, the American people have a right to expect swift action by our government to remedy this issue. “Rather than asking in retrospect what we can do better in the aftermath of an attack, it’s the duty and responsibility of our government to take every realistic precaution to properly screen all individuals, especially those from countries that are havens or state-sponsors of terrorism. “While I support the goal of President Trump’s executive order to strengthen America’s national security, I believe the administration must further clarify their long term objectives and the manner in which they intend to implement these new travel restrictions.”


Jacob McCleland spent nine years as a reporter and host at public radio station KRCU in Cape Girardeau, Mo. His stories have appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered, Here & Now, Harvest Public Media and PRI’s The World. Jacob has reported on floods, disappearing languages, crop duster pilots, anvil shooters, Manuel Noriega, mule jumps and more.
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