Pa. elected officials respond to Trump executive order

Toomey AP

Jared DeLoof tried and tried to get through to his senator’s office.

“There’s no way to communicate with him,” the State College man said Monday.

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., could not be reached by phone.

“It rings and rings, or the voicemail is full,” DeLoof said.

He wanted to let Toomey know how he felt about President Donald Trump’s executive orders, specifically the immigration issues that would keep people from seven heavily Muslim countries from coming — or returning — to the United States.

He shared his plans to head to the senator’s Johnstown office on Facebook. More people said they wanted to come. He filled one car. Then two. Then four. The cars filled with students and community members alike.

“There was a ton of response,” DeLoof said.

And by 10:48 a.m., about the time the caravan arrived in Johnstown, Toomey’s office was issuing a statement.

“It is crucial that our nation strike the right balance between defending our people against the deadly threat of international terrorism and providing a safe haven for innocent refugees seeking peace and freedom,” Toomey said.

He said he supported the administration’s decision, along with “enhanced vetting” of Syrian refugees, but did add that the “initial executive order was flawed — it was too broad and poorly explained.”

“Fortunately, the administration has clarified that this order does not apply to Green Card holders and that the secretaries of State and Homeland Security have the ability to grant exceptions which certainly should apply to, among others, foreign nationals who served the U.S. military in various support roles,” he said. “I look forward to learning more about how the administration intends to enforce this executive order, to determine whether it indeed strikes the appropriate balance between defending our nation and maintaining our ability to provide a safe haven for persecuted individuals.”

By contrast, on Monday, the other Pennsylvania senator, Democrat Bob Casey, was sending a letter to John Kelly, secretary of Homeland Security.

“I urge you to encourage the president to rescind this ill-advised, damaging and discriminatory executive order,” he said in a letter that expressed “profound concern and disappointment in the administration’s recent actions.”

“... Policy changes need to be driven by the professional advice of homeland security experts, not by politics, fear or discrimination,” he said.

Casey asked for data including how many people were detained or turned around at Pennsylvania airports, what the procedures in place were, how long Customs and Border Protection officials could detain or question individuals, and what recourse individuals had.

Casey left a ball Saturday, showing up alongside Gov. Tom Wolf at a protest at Philadelphia International Airport wearing a white tie and tails.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale also took the executive order to task Monday.

“What we saw in Philadelphia — a scene that played out in airports across the country — when legal residents were detained was disgusting on many levels and made us look like a third-world country. The order was so poorly implemented by the Trump Administration that it looked like a drunken fantasy football draft party. The way people were treated at the airports was a travesty of justice.”

DePasquale said that companies that do business in Pennsylvania, like Google, and universities with international students and faculty, are already being impacted by the order.

“Because this executive order potentially violates the Pennsylvania constitution, I directed my chief legal counsel to offer any appropriate support to the legal teams of Gov. Tom Wolf and Attorney General Josh Shapiro to ensure that no Pennsylvania resident is denied their constitutional rights,” he said.

Shapiro said Sunday that he and at least 16 other attorneys general consider the action “unconstitutional, un-American and unlawful” and vowed to “use all of the tools of our offices to fight” it.

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce