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The Eagle: Rep. Flores supports Trump's travel order

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Washington, February 2, 2017 | comments

U.S. Rep. Bill Flores offered his support of President Trump's executive order temporarily barring citizens of seven Middle Eastern and African countries from entering the U.S.

"It is entirely appropriate that we take a 120-day pause in terms of admitting refugees from these seven countries until we can improve our vetting processes so we can keep our country safe and keep its citizens safe," Flores said.

Though ultimately supportive of the executive action, Flores expressed frustration at the president's lack of coordination with government agencies before signing the order.

"I was extremely disappointed in how the administration rolled out this executive order," said Flores, who added that the order's unexpectedness fostered the panic and controversy surrounding its implications.

"Congress was just as shocked as everybody else," he said.

Flores joins the majority of Texas Republican members of the House of Representatives who have given statements supporting the controversial order. Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, an Aggie and former undercover CIA officer in the Middle East and South Asia, crossed party lines and adamantly opposed the ban.

"The executive order banning visa adjudication from seven countries does not make us safer -- rather it decreases the security of our homeland and endangers the lives of thousands of American men and women in our military, diplomatic corps and intelligence services," Hurd said in a press release.

Flores sought to dispel the notion that the president's executive order specifically targeted Muslims, calling it "a security-based order."

According to the Pew Research Center, President Trump's executive order affects about 12 percent of the world's Muslims. Of the seven nations named in the executive order, only Iran is listed among the top 10 countries with the largest population of Muslims. Almost two-thirds of the world's Muslims live in the Asia-Pacific region, and more Muslims live in India and Pakistan than all countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

"If this was a religious-type executive order, it would have gone against all those countries," Flores said.

All seven countries -- Iraq, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen -- are listed in the "High Warning" to "Very High Alert" categories on the 2016 Fragile State Index, an annual report that assesses each state's vulnerability to conflict, putting each of the seven countries in the top four categories of the ranking. The Fund for Peace -- an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization that assesses conflicts and warning signs for state instability -- produces the index annually as resources for policy-makers looking to mitigate conflicts. All seven countries also are listed as having travel warnings on the U.S. State Department's website because of an increased vulnerability to kidnapping, terrorist attacks and state-sponsored violence.

Flores pointed to each state's lack of a centralized government as a significant roadblock for U.S. officials when vetting each displaced person's application for refugee status in America. Guaranteeing Americans' safety is difficult, said Flores, because there is no governing authority in these states to confirm each person's identity.

Instead of allowing refugees from these countries into America, Flores suggested the establishment of "safe zones" close to each nation, so refugees can return home after their countries once again become stable.

Trump has proposed such safe zones in the past and spoke with Saudi Arabia's King Salman over the weekend about supporting such zones in Syria and Yemen, though experts have warned of the possibility of escalating conflicts as the U.S. defends such zones from external threats.

All seven countries have fared poorly in the Failed States Index in years past, and barring extreme intervention and investment they are unlikely to improve significantly on their own. Elected on a platform of "America First," President Trump is unlikely to act "unilaterally" in helping these countries become economically prosperous and politically stable, said Flores, but it is likely the president will work with allies, especially Gulf states, to help these countries become "secure and prosperous in the future."

Flores said that, as of Tuesday afternoon, his office had received between 200 and 300 calls from constituents voicing opinions on the president's executive order.

"We've had to spend a fair amount of time educating people on what the executive order actually does," Flores said. "Once we dispel the fiction, most of them breathe a sigh of relief."

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