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Talk is cheap; Congress must act on visa ban

A reflection of the US Capitol Dome in Washington. EPA PHOTO

Talk is nice, but in a moment of growing crisis, members of Congress must be judged on actions. John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and a succession of Republican senators have issued statements criticizing aspects of President Trump’s disruptive visa ban for residents of seven Muslim-majority nations, but as of Monday night had not committed to actually doing anything about it in Congress.

No doubt, political coalitions take time to assemble, but as McCain and Graham noted, the policy risks serious and far-reaching damage to American interests. Congress can overturn the ban and use its oversight powers to investigate how such a botched policy emanated from the White House in the first place.


Signed late on Friday afternoon, Trump’s policy stops all settlement of Syrian refugees fleeing the brutal civil war there. It also temporarily blocks travel into the United States by residents of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The order caught even immigration authorities off guard, leading to chaotic scenes at airports as law enforcement agents tried to implement it without guidance.

Over the 48 hours that followed, both the long-term damage of the order, and the obvious lack of thought that went into its writing, became painfully clear. The order itself seems to have been rushed through, with the White House itself vacillating over whether it applied to green-card holders. Federal judges blocked parts of the order for travelers at several airports, including Logan.

As the news spread over the weekend, Americans absorbed the implications: For businesses, the ban means employees may not be able to travel. The ban also divides families, chills commerce, and threatens the academic exchanges that are crucial to a center of learning like Boston.

Much worse, though, was the affront to American values that the sweeping order represents, along with its gratuitous cruelty. Freezing the settlement of Syrian refugees, who have already suffered through a barbaric war, makes a mockery of the nation’s roots as a sanctuary for the oppressed. And the underlying religious bigotry of the order is plain. The administration shamelessly insists that the policy isn’t a Muslim ban — but given the countries involved, and the fact that Trump himself promised to enact a Muslim ban during the campaign, that stance simply insults the public’s intelligence.


The Americans who protested by the thousands in Boston on Sunday afternoon, along with the rest of the world, certainly don’t buy that fiction. Neither do the Iraqi soldiers fighting against ISIS who suddenly find themselves barred from the United States, even as their enemy now has a powerful new propaganda weapon. As McCain and Graham put it, “We fear this executive order may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security.”

Strong words. But they only underscore the question for McCain, Graham, and the Republican Party: If the ban is so bad that it’s actively aiding America’s enemies, and it’s within the power of Congress to change it, then what’s the hold-up?