This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Sen. Mike Lee isn't sure what to think of President Donald Trump's executive order banning refugees from certain Muslim majority countries, such as Iraq and Syria.

Lee, R-Utah, opposed Trump during the campaign and ended up voting for independent conservative Evan McMullin, in part because of Trump's talk of a temporary ban on Muslims, which he called a "religious test."

The senator doesn't see the executive order signed Friday as such a ban, though it obviously affects mostly Muslims, including permanent legal residents, who came from those countries. But it may depend on how it is enforced and there were chaotic scenes at airports on Saturday as some people were detained because of their nationality. The White House hasn't briefed the media on how the order is to be enforced and hasn't briefed members of Congress either.

Asked for a statement Saturday, Lee said: "National security is always the federal government's top priority, so I am pleased that the White House is focused on protecting the American people.  I do have some technical questions about President Trump's Executive Order titled 'Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.'  My staff and I will continue to reach out to the White House for clarification on these issues."

McMullin, who was born in Provo and came in third in Utah's presidential vote, attacked Trump's order on Twitter.

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch released own statement Saturday on Twitter.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, who has been outspoken in his backing of refugees from Syria and elsewhere, also spoke out against Trump's order this week.

"We have a lot of people from Syria that are probably running from terrorism that aren't terrorists," Herbert said. "More important to me is who they are, what they are — as opposed to where they come from."

Though in contrast, Utah's six members of Congress, most of whom have not weighed in on Trump order, have previously supported a moratorium on accepting refugees from Syria, including Lee. Like Trump, they have seen it as a security concern.

Utah Democratic Party Chair Peter Corroon on Saturday issued a statement saying Trump acted on a campaign promise that most Americans, and especially most Utahns, opposed. He encouraged Utahns to contact their representatives in Congress.

"This move by Trump proves definitively that he will not be a president for all Americans," Corroon said. We have a president who is willing to discriminate against religious minorities at his convenience."

mcanham@sltrib.com

comments powered by Disqus