More Republican defections in the wake of President Trump’s temporary travel ban imposed on all refugees and immigrants from seven predominately Muslim countries. Leading Republicans say they were not consulted about the ban. And some are making public their opposition. Representative Leonard Lance was the first representative from New Jersey to express his opposition and he sat down to talk to NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams.
Williams: Thank you for being with us. You called the executive order rushed and poorly implemented. What did you mean by that?
Lance: I think that the executive order should have been vetted by the secretary of Defense and the secretary of Homeland Security and I think that it was overly broad, Mary Alice. It seems to me that, for example, those who with green cards should continue to be permitted to enter this country and I hope that the executive order is modified. I also hope that the administration will work with those of us on Capitol Hill who are interest in this issue. Many of my colleagues on both the Republican and the Democratic sides of the aisle are interested in this issue. It is a matter of national security and we should work together on it.
Williams: So it is your impression that the president did not effectively discuss the executive order through the chain of command, or with Congressional Republican leaders?
Lance: He’s the president and he has the right to issue an executive order, but I think that he should have worked particularly with his Secretary of Defense Gen. Mattis and his Secretary of Homeland Security Gen. Kelly, and I think that would have been appropriate.
Williams: You’ve said you support increased vetting for people traveling from countries with extensive terrorist activity. What do you mean by that? And is it the same thing as what President Trump means?
Lance: I have voted in the past for legislation in this regard and I think it’s important to make sure that all of those who come into this country are appropriately vetted. There has been testimony before Congress that ISIS, on occasion, uses this type of entry so that some of ISIS supporters might enter this country and I favor protecting the homeland to the greatest extent possible —
Williams: Right, but the vetting is now already a 20-step process that takes a number of years. So, what more would you suggest?
Lance: In legislation that we had passed, we had suggested that there would be certification from various national officials, including the secretary of Homeland Security and of course there have been instances regarding tragic situations including in San Bernardino, Calif. where I think it was a case where some came into this country inappropriately. However, I do think that the president should work with Congress, here on Capitol Hill, moving forward. I hope that this executive order is modified, particularly regarding those with green cards.
Williams: The travel ban applied to seven countries so far. Do you think that list should be expanded? Some Democrats, like Rep. Donald Payne Jr. say no perpetrators of terrorism, since 9/11, have come from any of the seven countries on the list.
Lance: The seven countries were originally identified by President Obama and his administration and I rely on experts in the Department of State and in the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense. And it’s possible that the list should be expanded, perhaps to include Saudi Arabia. And as you know, the terrorists regarding 9/11 came predominantly from Saudi Arabia. I would defer to the experts in the various federal agencies on that important question.
Williams: Would expanding the list of countries and expanding the vetting process really make us safer?
Lance: I want us to be as safe as possible and I think it is the end result of all of us here in Washington, in both the executive branch and the legislative branch, to make us as secure as possible. Yes, I think that it is possible to tighten the system up further, but this should be based upon those who are in ISIS. And those who are persecuted abroad or those who are refugees should always have the opportunity to come to this country, based on tradition and our heritage and based upon the words that are on the Statue of Liberty, for example.
Williams: All right thank you for being with us, Rep. Leonard Lance.
Lance: Thanks you very much, Mary Alice.