Congressional leaders from Illinois responded over the weekend to an executive order from President Donald Trump preventing citizens of seven predominantly Muslim nations from entering the United States.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, said a “failure to properly vet refugees” has left the country “vulnerable” to potential terrorist attacks, the likes of which have killed and injured hundreds in European cities in recent years.
“As the Trump administration works to develop better processes that strengthen national security, I hope cases involving visas are resolved quickly to reduce the burden on those who do not pose a threat to our country. We are a nation proud of our immigrant heritage and my office continues to help people go through the process to come here safely and legally,” Davis said Sunday in a statement.
The U.S. Department of State’s refugee admission program can take anywhere from 18 to 24 months to complete and involves several steps, according to the department’s website.
A spokeswoman for Davis emphasized that the order “is not a ban on Muslims.”
“And there are many other countries that are predominantly Muslim that are not impacted by this,” spokeswoman Ashley Phelps said.
A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, said in a statement that the congressman “believes the top priority of the federal government is to keep the American people safe.”
“It has become clear that we need a top-down review of our vetting process, and that it can be conducted in a manner that respects the rights of law-biding citizens,” spokesman George O’Connor said. “Given the world we live in today, taking steps to strengthen our national security is simple common sense.”
U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, said in a statement he supports “a vetting process that ensures every refugee, migrant or foreign national is not a security threat prior to his or her admission to the United States.”
“This temporary halt will give Congress and the new Administration time to evaluate and improve the vetting process, and in the meantime gives (Homeland Security) Secretary (John) Kelly authority to grant exceptions to the restrictions as needed. One of those exceptions must be to green card holders, who have already undergone extensive screening,” Shimkus said. “We should continue to provide humanitarian assistance, not only together as a nation, but individually to any of the dozens of non-governmental and faith-based aide organizations doing important work there.”
Democratic congressional leaders from Illinois expressed contempt at the order, however, and praised two federal judges’ decisions to block Trump’s order Saturday night.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a native of Thailand who moved to Hawaii with family when she was 16, took to social media to express sympathy with refugees.
“As a child, I witnessed the refugee crisis borne out of people fleeing the Khmer Rouge and Pathet Lao in (Southeast) Asia with my own eyes,” Duckworth said, referring to the harsh Cambodian regime and the Laotian Civil War that displaced thousands. “I’m proud our nation took in refugees then, but I’m motivated by the knowledge we could have done much, much more.”
Duckworth said the America she knows “does not slam its door on families and children fleeing terror.”
Duckworth spoke with MSNBC on Saturday about protests at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, where protestors gathered to challenge Trump’s order. Attorneys were on hand at O’Hare to provide legal counsel to individuals affected by the ban. The senator said 18 people were detained at the airport over the weekend, including two infants. Some of the detained were released Saturday night, though protests continued Sunday.
“Some of the folks who have been detained are American citizens. A lot of them are green card holders, legal permanent residents, and so this is not all refugees. We have seriously infringed on, especially in the case of American citizens, their constitutional rights,” Duckworth said.
The senator urged officials to release the detained individuals and let them “go home.” The order sparked protests at airports nationwide over the weekend.
Sen. Dick Durbin also expressed his concern about the executive order on social media. He said the order is “tearing American families apart.”