Long Island’s representatives in Congress and both New York senators on Tuesday rejected Republican presidential contender Donald Trump’s call to bar all Muslims from entering the United States, saying no screening process should be based on religion.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said officials should look into strengthening the screening process for people who have traveled in and out of conflict zones, or areas where there is a high incidence of terrorism.
Reps. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) and Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) said the focus should be on improving the visa waiver program, under which citizens from more than three dozen countries can come to America with few checks.
In a 407-19 vote, the House Tuesday passed a bill to tighten that program and to require a visa for entry into the United States for anyone who is from, or has visited in the past five years, Iraq, Syria, Iran and the Sudan.
“Of course we should keep bad guys out, but once we start imposing religious tests on everyone entering our country we have gone down a slippery slope, which changes the very nature of our country,” said Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington).
“I have been to Iraq and Afghanistan nine times and every time I went I met Muslim American soldiers putting their lives on the line to fight for our freedoms — I never saw Trump on the front lines,” Israel said.
“We’re not at war with Muslims. We’re at war with terrorists,” Rice said. She said Trump’s ban was “not only bigoted, un-American fear-mongering — it’s exactly what terrorists like Daesh [ISIS] want to hear.” Israel called it “insidious and dangerous,” while Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans) described it as “fascist and xenophobic.”
King said, “You cannot and should not ban all Muslims from coming into the country.”
Zeldin twice declined to comment on Trump’s controversial proposal. But Tuesday afternoon, his press aide Jennifer DiSiena said Zeldin “does not support any policy that calls on banning anyone from entering America solely based on their religion.”