Congressional Education Committee Leaders Criticize Travel Ban

February 1, 2017

The two Republicans who lead the education committees of the U.S. Congress have issued statements that criticize aspects of the Trump administration's entry ban on immigrants and nonimmigrant visitors from seven majority-Muslim countries.

Hundreds of higher education leaders have strongly condemned the ban, saying it is morally wrong, unnecessarily harms students and professors, and could have a chilling effect on university research. The statements from Senator Lamar Alexander and Representative Virginia Foxx do not go that far. (See below.) But the Republican leaders of the two education committees said the executive order Trump signed on Friday was confusing and needed more clarity in order for it to be applied in an equitable fashion.

When asked Tuesday whether Congress should act to fix those problems, Foxx said, "My understanding is that the executive order that the president put out is completely legal and authorized, and so I don't know of anything that the Congress might do in response to it." Foxx, who was speaking at the annual meeting of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, demurred when asked if she would support the administration altering its order, saying, "I haven't heard anything about the administration wanting to change anything from what it's done."

Foxx's written statement on the order:

"We have always been a country that welcomes immigrants. However, it is also important to remember that national security is the number-one job of the federal government. Given shortcomings in the current screening process, I joined a bipartisan House majority in supporting legislation to strengthen the vetting process for individuals seeking entry to the United States through the Visa Waiver Program or as refugees. The executive order signed by the president on Friday came with little clarity and caused much uncertainty for foreign travelers. Additional implementing guidance is needed to ensure that the order can be applied in a fair and equitable manner."

Alexander's written statement:

"This vetting proposal itself needed more vetting. More scrutiny of those traveling from war-torn countries to the United States is wise. But this broad and confusing order seems to ban legal permanent residents with green cards and might turn away Iraqis, for example, who were translators and helped save lives of American troops and who could be killed if they stay in Iraq. And while not explicitly a religious test, it comes close to one, which is inconsistent with our American character."

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