Some Georgia elected officials have been making their positions known over a controversial immigration freeze ordered by President Donald Trump Saturday, although many have kept silent.
Officials tweeted, released statements and even took to the streets amid news that the temporary travel ban led to the temporary detainment of at least 11 travelers at the Atlanta airport.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed Issues Official Statement
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed released an official statement decrying the executive order. “It is evident that President Trump’s executive order of barring refugees and migrants from several Muslim countries has already caused chaos, confusion, and irreparable harm,” Reed said. “I firmly believe that President Trump’s executive order violates the principles of the U.S. Constitution.”
United States Reps. Hank Johnson And John Lewis Join Atlanta Airport Protests
Meanwhile, United States Democratic Reps. Hank Johnson and John Lewis took to the streets to support protests at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where at least 11 travelers were detained for a number of hours before their release.
— Marissa Mitchell (@MarissaMFOX5) January 29, 2017
— Marissa Mitchell (@MarissaMFOX5) January 29, 2017
Lewis and Johnson spoke to immigration officials inside the airport in a closed meeting before several detainees were allowed to leave. Additionally, they took to Twitter to communicate their beliefs about Trump's move.
To treat as strangers these law-abiding immigrants threatens the democratic principles this nation stands for.
— John Lewis (@repjohnlewis) January 29, 2017
These unintended consequences could have been avoided. We shouldn't be singling out people based on nationality & faith. #NoBanNoWall
— Rep. Hank Johnson (@RepHankJohnson) January 29, 2017
United States Reps. Buddy Carter and Rick Allen Offer Support
While I believe there needs to be thoughtful clarifications on the executive actions similar to Secretary Kelly's announcement about lawful permanent residents, the number one priority of the federal government is to provide for the common defense. In the world we currently live in, it is smart and necessary to focus on putting in place the most robust national security vetting process ever to know exactly who is entering our country so we can continue to welcome those who believe in America's freedom and share our values.
Rep. Rick Allen said that the executive order would help "protect our homeland" and continued in a statement by saying:
Last Congress the House passed a very similar piece of legislation, the American SAFE Act, which passed with bipartisan support and a veto-proof majority. I am hopeful that cases affecting travelers when the executive order was announced will be resolved soon.
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson Sends Statement to WABE
Sen. Johnny Isakson's office sent a release to WABE's Denis O'Hayer Monday regarding the action, saying that some aspects of the travel ban's smooth implementation were "overlooked."
I hope that President Trump will consult with the national security team he has assembled with the advice and consent of the Senate, so that security measures are properly implemented and do not infringe on the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans. I also believe that America should continue to be welcoming to refugees who are fleeing war and persecution and who share America’s ideals and values.
U.S. Sen. David Perdue releases statement in support of policy
Sen. David Perdue sent out a statement Monday night supporting Trump's order and reiterating the administration's assertion that the policy would help "protect American citizens."
We are at war with ISIS and our previous president refused to put a plan in place to deal with this threat. We know terrorist groups have identified our country’s refugee system as a weakness and have purposed to exploit this program to their advantage. The first responsibility of any American President is to protect American citizens. This temporary pause will allow DHS to ensure the vetting process is improved. America will always be a compassionate country, and President Trump is taking action to protect all of our citizens.
This is a temporary suspension for 120-days to improve the refugee vetting process and 90-days on individuals coming from seven countries President Obama previously identified as national security concerns: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen.
U.S. Representatives Respond
In an emailed response, Rep. Sanford D. Bishop of Georgia's second Congressional District called the executive order "overbroad and impractical."
The President’s Executive Order creating a travel ban is overbroad and impractical, as we saw at airports all over the world this weekend. This ban ensnared legal permanent residents who have already been vetted, interpreters who risked their lives serving alongside our troops in Iraq, and innocent people seeking refuge from war, violence, and persecution.
I urge the administration to rethink this Executive Order, and I stand committed to work with my colleagues in Congress to implement solutions that will make our country safer while remaining consistent with our values as a nation of immigrants.
On his website, Rep. Rick Allen of Georgia's 12th Congressional District said "first and foremost we must protect our homeland":
First and foremost we must protect our homeland — the executive order does that— and keeps Americans safe until the legislative branch can reform our visa process and the vetting of refugees. Last Congress the House passed a very similar piece of legislation, the American SAFE Act, which passed with bipartisan support and a veto-proof majority. I am hopeful that cases affecting travelers when the executive order was announced will be resolved soon.
Rep. Drew Ferguson of Georgia's 3rd Congressional District said:
The first job of the federal government is to keep its citizens safe. Georgians and Americans everywhere deserve to be safe in their communities. Given the growing number of threats around the world, increased awareness and effective policy to address these threats is warranted.
Rep. Austin Scott of Georgia's 8th District said in a press release that "Immigrants, refugees, and countries of origin should be vetted on a thorough, case-by-case basis":
Immigrants, refugees, and countries of origin should be vetted on a thorough, case-by-case basis. It is my hope that this temporary stay gives President Trump’s team time to coordinate with Congress to review the vetting process and figure out how to best protect American citizens. Any reforms to our vetting process or assessments of our refugee and immigration policies will require a total effort between all branches of government to get it right.
For example, last Congress, I introduced legislation to increase homeland security and keep Americans safe by requiring the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to monitor the travel of any refugees admitted into our country. Currently, the federal government makes no effort to track their travel, including whether they travel back to the same country or region they are from. By requiring DHS to collect this data, crucial intelligence could be gathered and our refugee admissions policy could be improved to enhance national security.
In an emailed statement, Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia's 10th Congressional District said "while we welcome refugees, the fundamental responsibility of the federal government is to provide for the common defense":
It has been well-established by the U.S. intelligence community that the strategy of radical Islamic terror groups is to hide operatives among refugees from the Middle East and North Africa entering Western countries. While we welcome refugees, I believe that the fundamental responsibility of the federal government is to provide for the common defense, including ensuring those who reach our shores are first fully vetted through a reliable screening process
In an emailed comment, Rep. Tom Graves of Georgia's 14th Congressional District wrote, "we are a welcoming country but we also have an obligation to keep our homeland safe":
America is a nation of immigrants. As such, we are a welcoming country but we also have an obligation to keep our homeland safe, which is the federal government's most fundamental mission. A temporary pause in admitting people to the U.S. from countries initially flagged by the Obama administration as terrorist hotspots is prudent. This pause is an opportunity to examine and strengthen the vetting process to ensure we are doing all we can to keep the American people safe. I am glad that the Secretary of Homeland Security made it absolutely clear that this action is not meant to target immigrants who have become lawful permanent residents of our country.
In a statement, Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia's 9th Congressional District stated his support for the executive order.
Protecting the people of the United States remains the top priority of its leaders, and thoughtful vigilance on this front has made our nation a beacon of hope to people throughout the world. It is possible to welcome refugees to our country while maintaining robust national security measures, and it is time to restore balance to this relationship by evaluating our entry processes in light of credible threats to our citizens. The executive order allows re-entry to lawful permanent residents and does not represent a comprehensive ban on entry to people from certain countries. In this temporary measure, President Trump has given us the opportunity to get refugee policy right going forward.
Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Cassville) told WABE's Johnny Kauffman that he'd "much rather deal with a little inconvenience by a foreigner coming into the United States then having to pick up more bodies and having to put them in body bags across the nation.”:
I understand it’s causing some inconveniences but I think the lives of American citizens and even the refugees who have come to this country seeking asylum from oppression and tyranny. It’s our responsibility to protect them as well.
In an emailed response U.S. Rep. David Scott of Georgia's 13th District said that the U.S. should honor the commitments made to people who already have visas and green cards:
My highest priority as a Member of Congress is to ensure the safety of our American people. While we must increase scrutiny of those from regions where terrorists seek to enter the U.S. and do us harm, we in Congress must step up to the plate quickly and do our part by allocating sufficient resources to establish the necessary infrastructure for this enhanced vetting at our airports and other points of entry.
However, our national security agencies have said that we do not currently have the infrastructure necessary to properly screen those wanting to enter the country. Therefore quick action by Congress to immediately beef up our national security infrastructure is vital in order to avoid excessive delays in the processing of visas for refugees, students, business professionals and others who wish to come to the U.S. and add to the rich tapestry of our nation.
And for those who already hold visas and green cards and have passed screening and have a legal right to enter the U.S., we should honor the commitments made to them and they should not be subjected to delays and detainment when arriving on our shores.
Our diversity is the key to our success as a nation. Our immigration policies must be balanced between our desire to welcome others, and keep those who are already here, safe and prosperous.
Public Officials Who Have Not Yet Publicly Responded:
- United States Rep. Tom Price (R-Roswell)
- United States Rep. Robert Woodall (R-Lawrenceville)
- Gov. Nathan Deal
This is an evolving story, and will be updated as we continue to contact elected officials and receive statements regarding the immigration order.
Mary Claire Kelly and Johnny Kauffman contributed to this story.