U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan thinks it’s unfortunate that some people have used “inflammatory” rhetoric around President Donald Trump’s travel ban on refugees and citizens from Muslim countries.
He swears he would oppose a Muslim ban — and that’s not what this is, he told PBS Newshour’s Judy Woodruff on Wednesday.
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“This isn’t a Muslim ban. If it were, I would be opposed to it,” he said.
“But the rhetoric surrounding it makes it look like it’s a ban on a religion, or a religious test. And I think that rhetoric is inflammatory and does not help us.”
Late last month, Trump signed an executive order limiting immigrants and refugees for 90 days from seven Muslim-majority countries: Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Libya, Sudan and Somalia.
The president signed the order as part of measures that he called “extreme vetting” and said they would stop militants from finding their way into the United States.
“I’m establishing new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America,” he said.
A lower court judge in Seattle later suspended the order, in a decision that has been appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Civil liberties advocates and others have taken strong stances against the order, with protests that have stretched from New York to B.C.’s Peace Arch border crossing and beyond.
The reaction to the order had Ryan issuing strong words on the rhetoric that has followed the travel ban.
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“I think the rhetoric is damaging, no two ways about it,” he said.
He explained that, after the terrorist attacks that gripped Paris in November 2015, “there was an infiltration of ISIS among the Syrian refugee population into Europe.”
Woodruff then corrected Ryan, saying “it turned out they were not refugees involved.”
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“But that was the issue at the time,” Ryan responded.
He said that U.S. politicians discovered there was a “hole in the vetting process to guard against people trying to infiltrate the refugee population.”
“And so that is why we passed legislation then, about a year ago,” Ryan said.
“The bill passed the House, but it got filibustered in the Senate. So it never actually went into law.
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“So we’ve been long on record, on a bipartisan basis, that we need to get these vetting standards right.”
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Woodruff asked Ryan whether he knew ahead of time that Trump was going to sign an executive order around immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.
“On that one I didn’t,” he said, laughing.
“But we’ve decided on a go-forward basis that we’re going to have some more consulting and make sure that no one’s caught by surprise on things.”
- With files from The Associated Press and Reuters
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