On immigration, NY GOP House members' stances vary

ALBANY -- Amid the tumult last weekend over President Trump's immigration order, Rep. Chris Collins of the Buffalo area praised the action, calling it "a common-sense measure focused on protecting Americans."

The western New York Republican has long been one of Trump's most ardent supporters, yet his view wasn't wholeheartedly embraced by his fellow GOP congressional colleagues from New York.

On the immigration order, congressional Republicans from Trump's home-state are trying to balance between their party's platform in Washington and the opinions of the constituents in their districts.

"Certainly New York Republicans are much more moderate than Republicans in other parts of the United States," said Jeffrey Koch, a political science professor at SUNY Geneseo in western New York.

"They are going to be even a little away from the mainstream of their party."

Varied stances

Democrats throughout the state have ripped the order, issuing critical statements, attending rallies and trying to force legislation that would block the ban.

On Thursday, for example, lower Hudson Valley Democratic Reps. Nita Lowey and Eliot Engel were headliners at a Washington forum titled, “Not Who We Are: An Examination of Trump’s Un-American Muslim and Refugee Ban.”

“The president’s executive order is unconstitutional, immoral, and makes our country less safe," Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-Fairport, Monroe County, said in a statement.

For Collins and other House members from heavily Republican areas, they are supporting the order.
Collins' district voted for Trump last November by a wider margin than anywhere in New York.

But for federal GOP lawmakers from the Hudson Valley or central New York with a close divide between Democrats and Republicans, their positions have become more nuanced.

Finding a balance

Rep. John Faso, R-Kinderhook, Columbia County, said he supports stronger borders, but criticized the roll out of the order that created a 90-day suspension of entry to the U.S. by citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations.

The order was put on hold by federal judges in several states Saturday night.

"There’s no doubt that the authority exists," Faso said in an interview with the USA Today Network's Albany Bureau about the Jan. 27 order.

"The concern I had was the chaos and tumult that this caused upon its implementation."

Faso's district runs into parts of Dutchess County through all of Ulster County, the Catskills and into parts of Broome County in the Southern Tier.

While Trump won the district by about 7 percentage points, it also has about 5,000 more enrolled Democrats than Republicans.

Rep. John Katko, R-Camillus, Onondaga County, offered similar concerns about the order.

His district runs through central New York and into Wayne County, and it has about 12,000 more Democrats than Republicans. Democrat Hillary Clinton won the district in November.

While the order aims to make the country more safe, "it could potentially deny entrance to our country to lawful, permanent residents and dual citizens," Katko said in a statement.

"We should be a nation that accepts refugees and those fleeing oppression, but appropriate screening procedures need to be in place."

Stronger opinions

Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, said he believes the measure will work to improve the nation's security. His heavily Republican district runs through the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes.

“We care about keeping Americans safe from the threat of radical Islamic terrorism both at home and abroad," he said in a statement.

"It is critical that we look past the hyperbolic rhetoric from both sides of this issue and remain dedicated to ensuring the security of American citizens first and foremost.”

The situation is sensitive for some upstate GOP House members: The region has a robust refugee population.
Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-New Hartford, Oneida County, released a 444-word statement Monday explaining the issue in her district, which cover parts of the Southern Tier and Mohawk Valley.

She said spent more than a decade helping Bosnian refugees resettle in Utica, and she studied in the former Yugoslavia.

Utica has a large network that helps refugees relocate, but Tenney urged that Trump's order "in no way ndermines our country's humanitarian commitments."

"The president's executive order provides federal agencies an opportunity to comprehensively review our current refugee and visa vetting processes before issuing further admission decisions," Tenney said.

She added: "Our country will, and must, continue accepting refugees and issuing visas.

"This executive order will enable us to do so with the full knowledge that the programs are fair, rigorous and secure.”

Includes reporting by Washington Bureau correspondent Nicole Gaudiano.

© 2017 WGRZ-TV


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