Delegate supports immigration ban

A state representative from Woodstock said Wednesday he will not sign a letter condemning President Donald Trump’s temporary immigration ban from seven middle eastern countries.

Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, called the letter, which the Virginia House Democratic Caucus is urging Republican legislators to sign, a political stunt.

“I don’t participate in Democrat gimmicks, so no, I would not be inclined to sign on to their gimmick letter,” he said. “It’s nothing more than a political stunt.”

According to a news release from the caucus, Trump’s order is a de facto ban on Muslims immigrating to the U.S. It calls on Trump to rescind the order.

“We, the undersigned members of the Virginia House of Delegates, are very concerned by what appears to be a hastily drawn and problematic “Executive Order” effectively creating a Muslim ban on travel to the U.S. from certain countries,” the letter states. “We believe the letter and intent of the “Order” violate basic Virginia values as it hurts Virginian families. Putting aside the humanitarian problems of the Order, we believe it has negative implications for Virginia businesses and Virginia colleges and universities. We ask for it to be rescinded.”

However, Gilbert disagreed with the characterization of the order as a “ban.” He said there’s nothing unprecedented about a 90 or 120-day hiatus, as the order calls for, while policy issues are sorted out.

He said foreign policy should tend to concerns of U.S. citizens first, before those trying to become citizens.

However, the caucus’ letter isn’t Virginia’s only issue with the order. Virginia joined a federal lawsuit Tuesday challenging the order.

According to court documents filed on Attorney General Mark Herring’s website, the commonwealth wants to join the suit on the grounds that the executive order could financially harm students at Virginian colleges.

“The Executive Order impairs the ability of students who are lawful permanent residents or present on student visas from continuing to attend Virginia’s public colleges and universities,” documents state. “That impairment will hamper the ability of Virginia’s colleges and universities to attract and retain foreign students in the future and result in a significant loss of tuition revenue to the Commonwealth.”

However, Gilbert said the motion was more bark than bite.

“I think it’s unfortunate that our governor continues to play political games with the security of our nation and I’m sorry that he thought it was important to do that,” he said.

Del. Chris Collins, R-Winchester, and Del. Michael Webert, R-Marshall, could not be reached for comment on the letter or whether or not they have signed it.

Trump’s executive order suspended refugee resettlement in the U.S. for 120 days, indefinitely suspended Syrian refugee resettlement, and barred entry from Libya, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days.

Contact staff writer Jake Zuckerman at 540-465-5137 ext. 152, or