Trump's rural Minnesota backers OK with immigration ban

Trump signs executive order on extreme vetting
President Donald Trump signs an executive action on extreme vetting at the Pentagon in Washington on Friday.
Susan Walsh | AP

While critics continue to blast President Donald Trump for his executive order placing restrictions on immigration, many of his supporters in greater Minnesota generally agree with the president's move.

"I am opposed to immigration from countries that are well-known, very well-known, to incite slashing, hacking, bombing, killing," said Mary, a feisty 70-year-old who was making a stop at the Moorhead post office. She didn't want her last name used because she fears reprisal for supporting the president.

A moment later outside the post office, T.J. Bergeron, 46, said he supports the president's immigration policy even though immigration isn't a top five issue for him.

"I think we have things in place to, you know, accommodate what immigration we have right now," he said.

Bergeron said he doesn't understand all of the protests and resistance to the new immigration restrictions. "We've had restrictions on immigration throughout the last, probably 40 years in this country and 3 million people didn't rise up in protest then. I don't see what the big issue is right now."

Rodney Snyder also doesn't see what all the fuss is about.

"I think they're overreacting," said Snyder, from Westbrook in southwestern Minnesota. "And they're not giving the plan a chance to work. And I realize that everybody wants to say that it's against the Muslims. It's not against the Muslims. It's against the ISIS type people. The militaristic Muslims. And he has no choice but to do what he said he was going to do."

Near the Canadian border, the Rev. Gus Booth gives president Trump an A-plus on immigration. At Warroad Community Church, he preaches that Muslims want to turn the U.S. into an Islamic nation.

"When they are wanting to make Islamic societies out of the entire world, and you live in a society that is incompatible with that, i.e., the United States of America, for you to allow them in, it's like allowing a child molester to babysit your kids," he said.

That kind of rhetoric makes Fargo, N.D., city commissioner Dave Piepkorn uneasy. He's heard a lot of inflammatory rhetoric the past few months while pushing to restrict refugee resettlement, arguing that the economic burden on local governments and schools is too high.

He's pleased the president's executive order requires a financial review of the refugee resettlement program, although he thinks the order goes too far in stopping refugee programs.

"The main thing I hope they accomplish is the whole vetting to make sure if people are healthy and are law-abiding, then regardless of the religion they should be allowed to come up," Piepkorn said. "But I hope we're just much more careful. I mean, there's no rush we need to be very methodical and I hope that's what happens."

He said he hopes this is just the beginning of a national debate about immigration.

"I do think for lasting impact you have to have Congress, you have to work together," he said. "The executive order is temporary. To me, that's the thing that we have to look to wait and see what the final product is."

President Trump's actions on immigration are giving Brian Grund pause. The Bemidji, Minn., resident said he voted for Trump somewhat reluctantly. Discrimination based on religion is wrong, he added, but he doesn't want to let terrorists into the country. He called it a difficult discussion.

"Fear is an amazing motivator, not necessarily in a good way," he said. "Fear of the unknown has motivated people throughout history to do some terrible things. And we just need to be careful that our fears don't allow us to do terrible things."

Grund says while he's concerned, he's trying to give the president the benefit of the doubt. It's tough, he said, to judge someone on a week's worth of work.

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