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Kentucky Elected Officials Mostly Quiet On Immigration Ban

Days after President Donald Trump’s executive order relating to immigration and refugees, Kentucky’s elected officials are mostly silent on the issue.

Gov. Matt Bevin, Rep. Hal Rogers, Rep. Andy Barr, Rep. Thomas Massie, Rep. Brett Guthrie and Rep. James Comer haven’t responded to repeated requests for comment.

Sen. Mitch McConnell’s press office declined to respond to an inquiry, pointing instead to his appearance on ABC’s This Week.

“The president has a lot of latitude to try to secure the country. And I’m not going to make a blanket criticism of this effort,” McConnell said. “However, I think it’s important to remember, as I said, that a lot of Muslims are our best sources in the war against terror.”

McConnell also said the issue would “ultimately be decided in the courts as to whether or not this has gone “too far” and that “we don’t have religious tests in this country.”

Related Story Hundreds Gather In Louisville To Celebrate Islam, Blast Trump’s Ban

Trump issued the executive order Friday evening barring refugees from all countries for 120 days. He also indefinitely banned refugees from Syria and issued a 90-day ban on the entry of citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

When asked what Sen. Rand Paul thought of Trump’s immigration bans, spokeswoman Kelsey Cooper said in an email that “Senator Paul ran for office pledging to secure our borders, and he is committed to working with the President and his colleagues to do so.”

In 2015, Paul proposed a bill that would have suspended visas for people coming from “countries with a high risk of terrorism.”

Paul’s Democratic opponent in his reelection campaign last year, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, Tweeted out a response to Trump’s orders, saying they “have created unnecessary anxiety and unrest.”

“America is a nation of immigrants, and all of our people make our country great,” Gray wrote. “In Lexington, we will continue welcoming everyone who moves here, from near or far, regardless of religion or nationality.”

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, a Democrat, attended a rally at Louisville’s Turkish American Friendship Center, saying he was ashamed of the country and disgusted by the president.

“I’m disgusted not only by his insensitivity and his immorality and by his absolute lack of knowledge and understanding and his unwillingness to learn,” Yarmuth said. “I’m going to confront my colleagues who are not willing to speak out against this. In some cases people who spoke out about it six months ago or three months ago or a year ago and said this was un-American and now they’re saying ‘oh it’s my president I can’t do that.’ That’s bullshit.”

In December 2015, then-candidate Trump proposed a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

McConnell called that proposal “completely and totally inconsistent with American values.”

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, a Democrat, announced a “Rally for American Values” at the Ali Center in Louisville on Monday at 6 p.m.

Other elected officials in Kentucky who’ve commented on Trump’s ban:

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, Democrat: “None of us have to look very far in our own families to find an immigrant with their own story. The United States of America, the country we all love, is built by immigrants and refugees from every corner of the world, people who practice different faiths and who are here for different reasons – each seeking a new and better life. This diversity is our strength.

“The President has now quashed the dreams of countless people who see America as a beacon of hope and opportunity – a place that would take them in. Acting on fear and prejudice, the President is building walls and closing doors to those who want and need both refuge and a new beginning.”

Louisville State Rep. Jim Wayne, Democrat: “I call on President Trump to stand by his proclaimed Christianity and stop turning away refugees fleeing violence and conflict. We are a nation built and strengthened by immigrants,” Rep. Jim Wayne said. “Some of the most remarkable contributors to the United States have immigrated here. We need to take a step back and examine how to keep our country safe without damaging the foundation upon which our country was built.”

This story has been updated.

Copyright 2017 89.3 WFPL News Louisville

Ryland is the state capitol reporter for Kentucky Public Radio. He's covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin. Always looking to put a face to big issues,Ryland'sreporting has taken him to drought-weary towns in West Texas and relocated communities in rural China. He's covered breaking news like the 2014 shooting at Fort Hood Army Base and the aftermath of the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas.
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