Attorney General Paxton believes travel bans are 'constitutional'

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Photo Credit: Mary Pistorius | Daily Texan Staff

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Tuesday the original and revised travel bans under President Donald Trump are within his authority as they are a matter of national security.

“I think they both follow the same law,” Paxton said. “Either travel ban I think  is constitutional.”

Paxton was the first state attorney general to legally support Trump’s first travel ban, which barred immigrants from seven predominantly-Muslim countries. A federal judge halted the first citing religious discrimination since it prioritized refugee status for religious minorities in the banned countries, leading to accusations that Christians were prioritized over Muslims.

At a Texas Asian Republicans Assembly meeting, Paxton said there were over 15 states supporting a federal judge’s halt on the first ban, with only Texas against the halt.

“I was on MSNBC … and the commentator, he’s a lawyer, he said ‘Don’t you feel lonely being the only state filing an amicus brief?’” Paxton said. “I said ‘Look, I’m from a state of 28 million people, I’m never lonely.’”

Trump implemented a watered down second ban that exempts visa holders and permanent residents, and removes regional ally, Iraq, from the list of banned countries.

On Monday, the Ninth Circuit said it would hear sometime in May the Justice Department’s appeal to lift a federal judge’s indefinite halt on the second ban. U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson said the second ban is unconstitutional in that it seems to block Muslims in particular.

Paxton said the U.S. should accept refugees, but the vetting process must be strengthened. On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security said it has not been able to harshen its vetting process.

“Texas has the highest amount of Syrian refugees coming to our state,” Paxton said. “We’re open to refugees, we just want to know if they’re coming from terrorist countries. The FBI Director said we can’t vet these people.”

Omar Bheda, a management information systems junior, said he is disappointed Paxton was the first state attorney general to support the ban, but knows many people in Texas who support Muslims.

“Personally, for me it’s disheartening,” Bheda said. “During Texas Muslim Capitol Day, I’ve been working (and meeting) with law enforcement or people involved with grassroots movement and have had more positive experiences than negative. There are a lot more people for you than against you.”

Chemistry junior Alec Lucas said despite the majority of Syrian refugees escaping for safety, he understands the travel ban’s logic because there is still a risk that a terrorist can pose as a refugee.
“I mean if we can’t really vet them, we don’t want to compromise our own security,” Lucas said. “If any one of them was a terrorist that can sneak in some way, that can definitely put our lives at risk.”

Government junior Daniel Ho said he leans conservative, however, he disapproves of both travel bans because of their cruelty to people escaping violence.

“My parents are also refugees because they escaped Vietnam during the Vietnam War,” Ho said. “I can definitely understand how tough that is for people in those countries who are trying to leave. It kind of sucks that someone else from the outside tells you that you’re not in real trouble so you can’t come.”