McConnell must reject travel ban

Participants held signs during the Feb. 5 Protest the Immigration Ban rally, organized by area high school students, at Lexington’s Courthouse Plaza.
Participants held signs during the Feb. 5 Protest the Immigration Ban rally, organized by area high school students, at Lexington’s Courthouse Plaza. Matt Goins

Sen. Mitch McConnell has been busy on his Twitter feed since March 6, when President Donald Trump issued his second ban on travel to the U.S. by people from predominately Muslim countries.

The Senate majority leader’s most popular topic, by far, has been the need to protect Americans from the Affordable Care Act. He has taken time to wish Kentucky basketball teams good luck during tournament season, promote U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, and lavish praise on the Kentucky General Assembly for passing a bill allowing public funding of charter schools.

Too bad McConnell, one of the country’s most powerful Republicans, hasn’t had a moment to comment on Trump’s ban or its rejection by two federal judges Wednesday.

As the courts have pointed out, the ban clearly takes aim at one religion, Islam, something the First Amendment to our Constitution prohibits. They aren’t convinced the administration has made the case that national security demands the ban.

The first ill-conceived and hastily enforced ban diminished U.S. standing in the world and caused widespread chaos at airports before courts intervened and the administration abandoned it. Now, Trump’s back with a second ban which promises to do little to improve security while endangering our country’s long-held commitment to free religious expression.

In the first round, McConnell said proper vetting was essential but the U.S. “should avoid” a religious test for immigrants. Beyond that he demurred, saying the courts could decide if Trump’s order had “gone too far.” Clearly it had.

In this second round, McConnell should get off the sidelines and publicly reaffirm this country’s commitment to religious freedom and tolerance, as well as our history as a nation of immigrants, including this president’s grandparents.

This is not just theoretical for McConnell’s constituents.

The U.S. State Department reports that between October 1, 2016 and February 28 of this year, there were 381 cases of refugees arriving in Kentucky involving 1,153 individuals.

Kentucky far outranks many of its neighbors — seven individuals refugees settled in West Virginia during the same period, for example, 762 in Tennessee, 710 in Indiana and 866 in Missouri.

The report doesn’t provide details on the country of origins of refugees for each state but three of the countries included in both Trump’s bans — Iran, Somalia and Syria — account for a significant percentage of refugees entering the U.S.

McConnell is not alone in his silence among our Republicans in Congress. As a presidential hopeful in 2015, Sen. Rand Paul made a lot of noise with a proposal to suspend visas to refugees from Syria that failed to gain traction but he’s shown little interest in Trump’s proposals.

His Twitter feed, instead, is an unending rant about both Obamacare and the Republican proposal to replace it.

U.S Rep. Andy Barr of Lexington did manage a few words in February in a radio interview on the need to vet refugees carefully (already happening) while saying he wanted to work with Kentucky Refugee Ministries to assure there aren’t any “unwarranted inconveniences for individuals who do not pose a threat to our national security,” whatever that might mean.

Barr, like his fellows, has ignored both Trump’s most recent travel ban and the court rejections on his Twitter feed in favor of posting his own NCAA bracket (going out on a limb and picking the Wildcats to win).

Although U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers had nothing to say about the travel ban, his Twitter feed did at least focus on his district, where he participated in events promoting economic revitalization and fighting drug abuse. Ironically, he joined Trump Thursday to celebrate immigration at the American-Irish luncheon.

KRF, founded in McConnell’s hometown of Louisville in 1990, notes that the U.S. resettlement program “prioritizes the must vulnerable refugees — women, children, survivors of torture, the elderly and those with special medical needs.”

Thank goodness our representatives are working so hard to save them from Obamacare.