Zeldin Throws Support Behind Refugee Ban

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin
U.S. Congressman Lee Zeldin.
Congressman Lee Zeldin.

By Stephen J. Kotz

Republican U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin, who was an early and enthusiastic supporter of Donald Trump’s campaign for the presidency, announced his support on Sunday, January 29, for the president’s executive order issued on Friday that imposed whole restrictions on the immigration of refugees to the United States.

The president’s initial order suspended entry for all refugees for 120 days, blocked those from Syria for an indefinite time and imposed temporary blocks on citizens from six other predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

The order stranded refugees, touched off protests at airports across the country, and led to a Brooklyn federal judge placing a temporary stay on enforcement of the order, preventing some refugees from being deported.

“I support the temporary entry restriction from certain nations until the administration, Congress and the American people know with confidence that any individual being granted admission does not pose a threat to our security,” said Mr. Zeldin in a press release. A member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr. Zeldin said the order allows the State Department and the Office of Homeland Security to issue visas on a “case-by-case basis, and when in the national interest” to citizens of countries that are currently blocked.

“Residents and green card holders should not be adversely impacted by this executive order,” Mr. Zeldin continued. “Every American has sympathy for the innocent person who is looking to come to America for a better life, but the process must without exception prioritize America’s national security first. We cannot allow someone entry until we know for sure they will not pose a risk.”

Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand opposed the order. “I repeatedly urged the last administration to do more to confront the growing humanitarian crisis in Syria and accept more refugee families. But President Trump’s actions on immigration and refugees fly in the face of our New York values and the foundation on which this country was built,” she said in a release. “Our diversity is what makes New York strong and our willingness to accept those in need who are fleeing some of the most dangerous and violent places on earth is what the Statue of Liberty represents. Our willingness to take in refugees is not only the right thing to do, but it also helps make our country safer from terrorist threats and shows millions around the globe that America cares for children and families facing strife and persecution. I will continue to stand with immigrant and refugee families and I will fight in the Senate to protect them.”

Later on Sunday, Mr. Zeldin said he had intervened on behalf of a Stony Brook University graduate student, Vahideh Raskhi, who had been detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

“My office and I have been directly involved in the case regarding the Stony Brook University graduate who is being detained at JFK Airport after returning to the United States from a visit to Iran,” he said in a release. “We have received confirmation that she should be released this afternoon. We will continue to monitor this situation closely to ensure that she is released.”

New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, who condemned the order on Sunday, sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection demanding that the agencies describe specific steps they are taking to ensure compliance with a federal court’s injunction and restraining order regarding the president’s order.

Mr. Schneiderman noted that his office has received alarming reports that the two agencies are not complying with the federal court order and, instead, are planning to remove from the U.S. individuals specifically protected by the order.

The letter asks the two agencies to provide by Monday, January 30, a description of the specific steps they are taking to ensure that they fully comply with the order, as well as a complete list of all individuals currently being held at JFK Airport.