Trump’s Muslim immigration ban draws varied response from Tenn.’s top Republicans

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump’s comments late Monday calling for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” until Washington figures out what to do is drawing a sharp rebuke from some, but not all of Tennessee’s top GOP leaders.

State party chair Ryan Haynes responded with the following when asked about Trump’s statement,

Donald Trump’s comments have no place in the Republican Party or in American politics. As Americans we should embrace our unique heritage of welcoming immigrants. Demanding that our borders be secure or raising legitimate questions about our screening process is one thing, but a wholesale ban on a religious basis is just wrong. This isn’t a conservative proposal; it’s an outlandish idea that goes against American exceptionalism. Donald Trump is running for the highest office in the United States. This comment doesn’t reflect someone who is serious about that endeavor.

Haynes statement followed a Facebook post earlier today from Republican Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey who said:

If the last few months have taught us anything, it is that America needs to get serious about border security — and quickly. While I would not favor an explicitly religious test, I do think it is time to place a moratorium on immigration from a long list of countries with ties to terrorism. The United States has been the most welcoming nation in history by a large margin. But a nation without secure borders is no nation at all. We are at war with radical Islam and everyone outside of the Obama administration knows it. It is time to seriously rethink our visa, refugee resettlement and immigration policies. It is time to press the pause button.

After a speech Tuesday morning to the Tennessee Farm Bureau, Republican Governor Bill Haslam was told what Senator Ramsey had said but focused more on Trump’s Muslim immigration ban.

“I don’t agree with Donald Trump on that,” Haslam told News 2. “America founders, right from the beginning were based on religious freedom. It was about people who came to our shores because they wanted freedom from people who would not let them practice religion the way they wanted to, that’s at the very core of who we are.”

The governor added that “while focused and concerned” about “terrorism in the world and even on our shores, to say we are going to shut down accepting people from any certain religion, I think is the first step toward a place that America does not want to go.”

Mr. Haslam drew a distinction between Lt. Gov. Ramsey and Trumps comments by saying, “Mr. Trump said we are going to bar members of one religion from coming to our country, while I understand what the Lt. Governor said is we ought to…pause immigration from countries that have terrorist ties. The issue we have there is that we have a lot of people fleeing countries because they are on our side.”

State Senator Mae Beavers, who is running to be a Trump delegate at the Republican National Convention, defended her candidates stand on Muslim immigration.

“I think it’s time the whole country pauses and looks at what is going on,” she told News 2. “All he said is we need to put a stop until we figure out what is happening, however it does not make anyone anti-religion or Islamophobic. I think it’s just good sense.”

She added that, “People are scared. I have had calls, emails, the governor said he had more calls to his office after the San Bernardino shootings than any other issue he has had to address.”

The chair of the TN Senate Republican Caucus is also a Trump supporter.

He told News 2 in a statement that Trump “has made it clear that under his proposal, this would be temporary until steps are taken to ensure that our vetting process works. It is not permanent. And, as evidenced by the San Bernardino shooter, our current process does not work. She was not vetted properly and even gave false information on her application which was not checked out. U.S. authorities have been lax with this process, especially as it affects countries with ties to terrorism. Coupled with the fact that our borders are far too porous, we are beginning to see the effects this has on our national security. What Donald Trump is saying is that we need to stop and regroup so that we tighten up these procedures to put in place the proper controls to vet those who come here on visas and as refugees for the safety of our citizens.”

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