Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Democrats Demand Meeting and Answers from DHS Chief

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, the top Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee was joined by fellow committee members Tom Carper, Jon Tester, Heidi Heitkamp, Gary Peters, Maggie Hassan, and Kamala Harris today as they demanded a meeting with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly amid troubling reports that he and key members within DHS were not appropriately involved with the crafting and implementation of President Trump’s latest Executive Order.

In a letter to Secretary Kelly, the Senators write that they are “deeply troubled by this unprecedented order and its implementation by the Department of Homeland Security,” and ask Kelly to answer a series of questions related to his role in crafting the Executive Order, as well as the method DHS plans to use to collect religious data, after President Trump’s assertion in a recent interview that the United States would give preference to Christians seeking to obtain visas or admission to the country.

Related to the role of Kelly and White House aides Stephen Miller and Stephen Bannon, the Senators wrote, “On Friday evening, DHS senior officials interpreted the order to mean that legal permanent residents from the seven affected countries would not be prevented from traveling to or entering the U.S,  and you provided assurances to Senate Democratic leadership that legal permanent residents would not be affected. Overnight, you were reportedly overruled by the White House, specifically by Stephen Miller and Stephen Bannon, who determined that legal permanent residents were subject to the Executive Order.”

To better understand the role of various officials, the Senators asked for the names of personnel involved in drafting and reviewing the Executive Order, as well as any legal analysis that was conducted. The Senators also requested an emergency meeting with Secretary Kelly within the next 48 hours.

Additionally, the Senators expressed alarm at a proposed religious tests for future immigrants writing, “We also have grave concerns about the President’s assertion on a television interview that our country would give preference to Christians seeking to obtain visas or admission to the U.S. This nation is founded on the bedrock principles of liberty and religious freedom, and a religious test for those seeking to enter this country abandons and violates these principles.”

As part of their request, the Senators asked Kelly for information related to the current collection of religious data by DHS, as well as what process would be used to confirm the religion of future visa applicants.

A copy of the Senators’ letter is available HERE.