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January 30, 2017

Sen. Toomey critical of Trump's travel ban as 'too broad, poorly explained'

Republican senator says order must 'strike the right balance'

Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey criticized the execution of President Donald Trump's controversial order that temporarily bans immigrants from seven Middle East countries as "flawed," saying it was "too broad and poorly explained."

But the Republican also vouched his support for increased vetting of immigrants and the temporary suspension of admitting "certain individuals from states that sponsor or provide safe havens to terrorists" in a statement released Monday.

The order, signed Friday by Trump, sparked demonstrations at airports across the country last weekend. 

Thousands of people protested at Philadelphia International Airport on Sunday after two Christian Syrian families were detained Saturday morning before being sent back to Doha, Qatar. The families reportedly had traveled with travel visas and were approved for green cards.

Toomey deemed the executive order as "too broad and poorly explained," noting that people who should have been permitted to enter the United States, including "lawful permanent residents," had been denied entry.

"Fortunately, the administration has clarified that this order does not apply to Green Card holders and that the secretaries of State and Homeland Security have the ability to grant exceptions which certainly should apply to, among others, foreign nationals who served the U.S. military in various support roles," Toomey said.

He also offered his support for more stringent vetting of refugees, saying terrorists may be among them.

"Terrorists have successfully infiltrated refugee populations entering Europe and gone on to commit heinous acts of barbarity," Toomey said. "I have long been concerned about our ability to distinguish between predominantly peaceful and innocent refugees, and the likely rare, but lethal, terrorists in the midst of those refugees coming from terror havens and lawless lands."

Last year, Toomey told that "we should not have a religious test" after Trump proposed banning Muslims from immigrating to the U.S. based entirely on their religion.

Critics of Trump's executive order claim it effectively does just that. All seven countries impacted have majority Muslim populations. Millions have fled Syria during the civil war that began six years ago there.

Toomey's statement said it is essential to "strike the right balance" between defending Americans against terrorism and providing a safe haven for refugees.

"I look forward to learning more about how the administration intends to enforce this executive order, to determine whether it indeed strikes the appropriate balance between defending our nation and maintaining our ability to provide a safe haven for persecuted individuals," Toomey said.