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Johnson, Walker once opposed Trump's Muslim ban; now mum

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Posted at 1:23 PM, Jan 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-30 14:23:53-05
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The top two elected Republicans in Wisconsin had previously criticized President Donald Trump for proposing a Muslim ban as a candidate, but neither Gov. Scott Walker nor U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson were talking in the wake of the president's travel ban affecting seven predominantly Muslim countries.
 
Other critics of Trump's executive order, including every Democratic member of Wisconsin's congressional delegation, were speaking out. Republicans in the delegation were either supportive or silent on Monday.
 
Immigrant advocates joined with elected officials in denouncing the order at a news conference Monday at the Islamic Resource Center in suburban Milwaukee. Those who work with resettling refugees said the order was hurting their efforts.
 
"This goes against everything our country represents, going back to our founder's conviction in the United States as a nation where the government does not discriminate against any religion," said Emilio De Torre, youth and program director at Wisconsin's American Civil Liberties Union.
Trump has insisted that the order he signed is not a ban on Muslims entering the country but is instead a measure designed to keep the country safe.
 
Trump's order includes a 90-day ban on travel to the U.S. by citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen, and a 120-day suspension of the U.S. refugee program.
 
A a 24-year-old man escaping violence and torture in Sudan did not arrive in Wisconsin as scheduled Monday due to the temporary immigration ban, said Mary Flynn, program director of Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. The man's case had been expedited because he was a victim of torture, Flynn said. Six other individuals who were to be helped by the group in the next few months have had their cases cancelled as of Monday, Flynn said.
 
Fessahaye Mebrahtu, executive director Pan-African Community Association in Milwaukee, said many of the Iraqi, Somalian and Sudanese refugees his organization worked with have been waiting for family members to arrive. The executive order now puts those plans on hold, he said.
Both Johnson and Walker were critical when then-candidate Trump last year called for an outright ban on Muslims entering the country. Johnson, who is chairman of the Senate's Homeland Security Committee, said then that "the best way to prevent the homegrown-inspired attacks is literally positive engagement with Muslim communities."
 
Johnson was traveling Monday and not immediately available for comment, said his spokesman Ben Voelkel.
 
Walker said last year in disagreeing with Trump's much broader total ban on Muslims that the country's founding principles are based on protecting religious liberties. Walker's spokesman Tom Evenson did not immediately return a message seeking comment Monday.
 
Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner reversed himself over the weekend after initially saying Saturday that green-card holders affected by Trump's order shouldn't be allowed in the U.S. On Sunday, Sensenbrenner said he misspoke.
 
The president's executive order was applauded by House Speaker Paul Ryan, of Janesville, who said it is "time to re-evaluate and strengthen the visa-vetting process."
 

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