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Manchin voices concern over Trump refugee order

By ERIN BECK

Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As about 100 people gathered outside U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin’s office in Charleston to protest President Donald Trump’s executive order that banned people from several countries from entering the United States, Manchin said Trump’s executive order was “not a common-sense approach.”

“As a member of the Intelligence and former member of the Armed Services Committees, I know firsthand the threats facing our country, and my top priority is always the safety of my fellow West Virginians. This is why I supported extreme vetting in the past for anyone seeking to come to our country,” Manchin said in a statement Monday night. “Unfortunately, after taking time to review the new executive order and discuss its impacts, I believe the scope and execution of the President’s action are not a common-sense approach.”

Trump’s executive order, issued Friday, blocked Syrian refugees from entering the United States and temporarily suspended all refugee admissions, as well as admissions from seven predominantly Muslim counties.

“We should focus all of our efforts on identifying potential terrorists, but common sense would tell you that a 5-year-old trying to join their family does not present a threat to our country,” Manchin said. “I am also concerned that the order was rushed through before being properly vetted by senior security advisors and members in the Administration. I stand ready to work with Democrats and Republicans who share my concerns.”

Manchin, West Virginia’s lone Democrat in Congress, has been one of the Democrats most friendly to Trump in the early days of his administration.

West Virginia’s other U.S. senator, Shelley Moore Capito, voiced support for Trump’s executive order, arguing that “we must protect our homeland and that means ensuring those entering our nation are thoroughly vetted.”

It would be up to the federal court system to decide whether the executive order is legal, she said, but said she didn’t believe the executive order was “about targeting a specific religion,” as former New York mayor and Trump adviser Rudy Giuliani suggested this weekend.

Capito said the “rollout created some confusion and more clarification is needed,” and said she doesn’t support customs officials stopping Iraqi translators who aided the U.S. military, as some were over the weekend.

Ibtesam Sue Barazi, vice president of the Islamic Association of West Virginia, said members had received support and sympathy from community members over the weekend.

Barazi came to America from Syria as a teenager. She has lived in West Virginia since 1975 and raised three children here.

“People of conscience are reaching out and saying ‘We support you,’” she said. “‘We want you to be here. We want to show that we’re all together.’ This is what makes America great.”

But many members of the local Muslim community remain in fear, added Badshah Wazir, president of the Islamic Association.

“We are concerned because we don’t really know what is waiting ahead,” he said.

“Yeah, a lot of things go on in the world, but we should not be penalized for what is going on in the Middle East,” he said. “I’ve been in this country for 42 years — since 1975. Other than speeding tickets I had maybe 15 years ago, I don’t have anything  I’m as good an American as anybody else, and I pay my taxes.”

He noted that the majority of local Muslim community members are professionals. Many who belong to the Islamic Association of West Virginia are doctors. Wazir, a cardiologist, has a practice in South Charleston.

“We contribute significantly to society,” he said. “We should be treated as any other American.”

Wazir arrived in Charleston from Pakistan, also in 1975. His parents were “dirt poor,” he said, and America represented opportunity.

He was already a doctor, but continued his studies here. He completed his two-year specialization in cardiology at Temple University in Philadelphia, where he met a Mount Hope woman who would become his wife.

“We are [as] American as anybody, and we want to be law-abiding citizens,” he said. “Our rights should be protected, and we should not be discriminated against based on religion.”

Only one of West Virginia’s three U.S. House members had commented on Trump’s order as of Monday evening. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., sent a statement Sunday, saying, “Keeping our nation safe means taking steps to secure and strengthen our borders. We are a nation of immigrants but that does not mean setting aside our responsibility to screen and vet those coming to our shores. I urge the White House to work with federal agencies to clarify this executive order and ensure that those who truly pose a threat to our nation are stopped.”

Rep. David McKinley’s office said they would send a note if they had a comment. Rep. Alex Mooney’s office never responded.

Joseph Cohen, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia, said the ACLU is planning educational events in reaction to the ban, but those efforts are also still in the planning stages.

Cohen said they have also heard from people worried about loved ones, but he didn’t want to identify any West Virginians affected.

“We’ve received calls from people who have family members abroad who are trying to enter the country and we’re working with them and the ACLU nationally to ensure their rights are protected,” he said. “We have received calls from people who are worried they are going to be caught up in the executive order — people who lawfully have the right to be in the United States, and they’re worried they’re going to be detained.”

The ACLU of West Virginia also released a statement.

“There simply is no rational basis for the fear that has driven our descent into making bigotry official U.S. policy,” Cohen said in the statement. “We simply fear that which is different. We fear ‘the other.’ This fear is destroying us. And it is being flamed by the nation’s highest office holder who ran a campaign, and is now governing, based on division and hate.”

“We must face this simple truth: Because of this executive order, many innocent people will die. With a stroke of the pen, President Trump declared that the United States does not value the lives of Muslims as much as others. This shameful declaration was made in our name. Our fear and hatred is consuming us. There is blood on all of our hands.”

“While the victories in court and on the streets are vitally important accomplishments that will vastly improve life for countless immigrants, the energized resistance to Trump’s actions continues to grow. We are incredibly proud to be a leader of this resistance and we are inspired and awed by its power. We will be on the front lines of this fight for as long as it takes. We hope to see all of West Virginia standing beside us.”

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