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Jan 31, 2017 5:24 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin Says Trump's Immigration Order Justified

The response to the immigration ban at JFK Airport over the weekend. MELISSA SIDOR
Feb 1, 2017 10:27 AM

President Donald Trump’s executive order last week to temporarily bar refugees and immigrants from seven Middle Eastern nations was a necessary and reasonable step to protect Americans from potential terrorists, U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin said this week.

The move drew outcry from across the nation and sent attorneys, including at least one local lawyer, scrambling to airports to help hash out the legal implications for those caught in the limbo created by the hastily implemented order.

Mr. Zeldin said that shortcomings in the ability of American officials to conduct thorough background checks on those applying for visas to come to the United States have long left the system vulnerable to manipulation.

“These countries were chosen for a reason—they are destabilized, and there is little to no documentation to rely on when you are trying to determine who someone is and what their beliefs may be,” Mr. Zeldin said in a phone interview on Monday. “You’re just relying on what someone tells you. The president is interested in gaining a better grasp on the current reality of the process. He wants to strengthen whatever vulnerabilities there were in the past.”

Mr. Zeldin said that during his first term in Congress he became familiar with the failings of the immigration background check system and saw that it needed to be improved. He said he also came to believe that halting immigration approvals temporarily while improvements are made may be necessary.

He offered some suggestions for how the system could be strengthened during the 90 days of the immigration freeze dictated in the executive order, including releasing surplus screening and identification equipment warehoused in the United States to the countries on the banned list—something that is proposed in a bill he authored called the Counterterrorism Screening and Assistance Act. The act is before the congressional Committee on Foreign Relations.

The congressman, who started his second term in office last month, acknowledged that the executive order issued Friday could have been presented better in terms of preparation and communication with the people at airports who would be expected to enforce it. From Friday night through Monday, more than 150 people were detained at airports around the country because they had flown to the United States before the order, which took effect immediately, had been issued.

“I think if there was better communication down to the individuals responsible for implementation and better direction of what the exceptions were to be, you would have had fewer people being detained as long as they were,” he said. “Better communication is going to always be important.”

Among those detained at airports was a Stony Brook University student, Vahideh Rasekhi, an Iranian Ph.D. candidate and president of the school’s graduate student organization, who was returning from Iran on a student visa. Mr. Zeldin said she was released and allowed to return to Long Island on Monday.

Around the country attorneys flooded to airports to halt what had initially been a policy of informing those who had lost their immigration privileges while en route that they would have to return to their home country, and subsequently to help those being detained to navigate the review process.

East Quogue resident Melissa Sidor, an attorney and partner at Twomey Latham Shea Kelley Dubin & Quartararo, was one of those who answered the call for legal assistance at the airports.

“I was at the bakery with my kids when I heard about this call for attorneys,” Ms. Sidor said. “I said to them, ‘I think I have to go to JFK,’ and they said, ‘You go, Mom!’”

Ms. Sidor said she served over the weekend primarily as a go-between for the crowds of dozens of lawyers camped out in JFK’s Terminal 4 and New York’s two senators, Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer. Similar teams of attorneys were stationed in other JFK terminals as well as at airports nationwide.

“We’re getting information from the families of the people who were being held, so we didn’t know the totality of how many there were,” she said. “We don’t know how many people were being held that didn’t have family members there to meet them to alert us. A couple got sent back before the judge’s order as I understand, told that if they didn’t leave voluntarily they would be deported and that then they couldn’t apply for a visa again.”

Opponents of the executive order have noted that no immigrant from any of the countries on the list has ever killed someone in the United States—although a Somali student did wound three people at Ohio State late last year and Iranian and Somali immigrants have participated in other non-fatal attacks or been arrested for planning one. The countries of origin of those who have killed the most Americans, primarily the four countries where the September 11 hijackers hailed from, are not on the list.

On Tuesday, dozens of outraged East Enders stuffed into Mr. Zeldin’s Riverhead office to voice their objections to the order and his support of it. Among them was Ken Dorph, a Sag Harbor resident who works as a banking and financial markets consultant to the World Bank in the Middle East.

“This is a horrible thing for business—business needs the free movement of people,” said Mr. Dorph, who has worked frequently in Iraq. “This kind of mentality of pulling up the drawbridges of the world inevitably leads to economic stagnation.”

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Why does picture 2 state "Muslim Ban"? It was never stated by the president that it was a Muslim ban.
By Lets go mets (377), Southampton on Feb 1, 17 11:06 AM
Please don't spread lies or "alternative facts" as your side calls them. In 2015, in a written statement, Trump called for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on."

You cannot and will not rewrite history. It's all happening right in front of our eyes, regardless of what you choose to believe.
By johnj (1017), Westhampton on Feb 1, 17 4:04 PM
5 members liked this comment
Also Giuliani admitted that's what Trump called it. He can walk it back and deny things but, as with many other things, we heard what he said already. And we're not stupid.
By SH_Res (342), Southampton on Feb 2, 17 12:16 PM
2 members liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Lets go mets (377), Southampton on Feb 1, 17 11:06 AM
The PRESS's have labeled this... Let's have the truth in press, not their biased opinion.
Truth and nothing but the truth, reporters...
By knitter (1854), Southampton on Feb 1, 17 5:20 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By knitter (1854), Southampton on Feb 1, 17 5:20 PM
... if it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it is a duck...
By Toma Noku (616), Southampton on Feb 1, 17 6:15 PM
2 members liked this comment
Gimme a break! This is the seditious, Israelophile zealot who previously aided Israeli spies in their effort to derail US Middle East policy. Should we be surprised that he has weighed in on efforts to prevent Muslim Arabs from entering the United States?

In order to predict what Lee Zeldin's position on ANY US government policy regarding the Middle East would be, one need only ask, "What would Bibi Netanyahu do?

We are only notionally his constituents.

By highhatsize (4146), East Quogue on Feb 1, 17 6:30 PM
4 members liked this comment
Ah yes,the oblivious Islamophile did not disappoint.....!!!
By Biba (557), East Hampton on Feb 4, 17 2:12 PM
Subjecting residents of 7 countries over run with terrorism to increased scrutiny is not a " ban on Muslims". There are 40 something Muslim majority nations
By bigfresh (4542), north sea on Feb 2, 17 11:20 AM
1 member liked this comment
Bigfresh I read your posts here and agree with many things you say. Im seriously glad you got this figured out. But when you have a President who was elected on anti-Muslim rhetoric do you think this these 7 countries are enough?
By Genuin (26), Hampton Bays on Feb 2, 17 11:57 AM
I bet if the ban was on immigrants from ISRAEL or RUSSIA Mr. Zeldin would have a different opinion and there would be PLENTY OF PROTESTING!!!
By Claire (3), Southampton on Feb 2, 17 11:22 AM
What a ridiculous comment.
By Biba (557), East Hampton on Feb 5, 17 12:36 PM
Zeldin's responses fall exactly along party lines. He does not have the confidence or the conviction to speak up. The EO was instituted dismally and without clarity sending unnecessary repercussions world wide and making the US look inept.
His silence is support for this administration which is chaotic , reactive, destructive and is intent on enriching those at the top..
By lo-cal (77), southampton on Feb 2, 17 12:34 PM
3 members liked this comment
Zeldon is a trump enabler
By yassar arafar (33), sag harbor on Feb 2, 17 4:32 PM
1 member liked this comment
Thanks Genuin, I feel that the current EO is sufficient , the 7 nations are a have for terrorists and some extra scrutiny for those coming is is warranted.
By bigfresh (4542), north sea on Feb 3, 17 10:57 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By bigfresh (4542), north sea on Feb 3, 17 10:57 AM
Not a Muslim
Not an immigrant
Not a refugee
Not from a banned country
Not a Mexican
A blond-haired white man from Maryland
Travelled to NYC
Fueled with hate
Attacked and killed Timothy Caughman
By June Bug (2533), SOUTHAMPTON on Mar 23, 17 1:14 PM
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