Republican lawmakers John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Barbara Comstock of Virginia, Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Justin Amash of Michigan, Susan Collins of Maine, Rob Portman of Ohio and Ben Sasse of Nebraska deserve recognition for standing up against the president’s executive order, which is essentially a Muslim ban.
The order, signed on Friday, indefinitely bars Syrian refugees, and those from six other Muslim majority countries for at least 90 days, until a process of “extreme vetting” is developed. Against Department of Homeland Security advice, the ban also extended to legal residents with valid green cards who were stuck abroad in legal limbo.
The resulting chaos led to the detention of at least 100 people across airports in the United States, until the ACLU took action to secure their release.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not taken a strong stand, despite having criticized such a ban in December 2015 as “completely and totally inconsistent with American values.” Apparently, he is now content to wait for the courts to decide whether the executive order has gone too far. McConnell’s flaky position is not out of character given his obsession with a partisan agenda.
But he should know better. As a lover of American history, McConnell knows that the Chinese Exclusion Act, bans on Jewish immigration in the 1930s, and WWII-era Japanese internment camps are among the darker days in our nation’s history.
Having traveled on official missions to dozens of countries, including some of those on the president’s list, our senator knows that such language and actions increase the danger to American troops serving abroad.
As ex-officio member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, he knows that the list does not target potential ISIS fighters, given that Iran’s Shias are themselves a target of the Islamic State and are actively fighting against the group.
As a senator from Kentucky, he knows that many refugee families, including Syrians, have been successfully settled in our state thanks to the efforts of various communities, churches, synagogue, mosques, and the tireless work of organizations like Kentucky Refugee Ministries.
And as the majority leader, McConnell knows the importance of American moral authority. He has nonetheless capitulated to a president with the lowest first-week approval rating in modern history.
McConnell needs to take a cue from his more courageous Republican colleagues to denounce racism and bigotry in all it’s forms, even if it means standing up to your own party.
Dina Badie is an assistant professor of politics and international studies at Centre College and Robert Bosco is an Associate Professor of International Studies at Centre College.