A file photo of Rep. Chris Smith in front of the Capitol Building.

Congressman Chris Smith yesterday called President Donald Trump’s so-called Muslim ban “poorly implemented,” but lent his support to the program that halts the United States’ refugee program and bars visitors from seven countries in Africa and the Middle East for 90 days.

On Jan. 27, Trump issued an executive order that suspended the U.S. refugee program for four months. The order also disallowed refugees from Syria indefinitely and visitors and immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days. The majority of the population from all seven countries is Muslim.

The order immediately sparked protests around the country, as members of both political parties scrambled to weigh in with their support or criticism. Smith, a Republican, remained silent, however, until issuing a three-paragraph statement on his website Jan. 31.

“While the Executive Order was initially poorly implemented, leading to confusion and fear—especially for green card holders from the seven countries previously identified by Congress and the Obama Administration as countries of concern—the assessment from the FBI that there are gaps in data when vetting refugees from conflict zones cannot be ignored.

“The reports that ISIS has smuggled more than 4,000 covert operatives into Western nations hidden among innocent refugees also cannot be discounted.

“The executive order is a pause as we find a way to secure and protect Americans while acting with compassion for humanitarian refugees. I believe that a balanced immigration process can be implemented that achieves a necessarily-enhanced vetting process for those who seek refuge in the US while protecting Americans to the greatest extent possible from acts of terrorism.”

Smith sits on the congressional Committee on Foreign Affairs, and chairs the subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights. Smith has been an outspoken opponent of human trafficking, and has taken an interest in humanitarian causes during his time in Congress. In December 2016, he criticized President Barack Obama, the U.S. government and the United Nations for not providing aid to Christians in Iraq.

“The president has not stepped up to assist for the last three years, but he could step up before he gets out of office,” Smith told Crux, a Catholic magazine. “My hope for the new government, my fondest hope, is that it provide immediate life-saving aid to the displaced Christian community in Erbil [in Northern Iraq].”

He has represented New Jersey’s 4th Congressional District, which includes Hamilton and Robbinsville, since 1981. Smith won re-election in November. During the election, he served as co-chair of the Pro-Life Coalition for Trump.

Other officials in Mercer County have voiced their concern with the executive order. Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, who represents all Mercer municipalities except for Hamilton and Robbinsville, denounced the order, saying it makes “a mockery of the ideals upon which our nation was founded.” Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes told nj.com that the restrictions are “destructive.” And New Jersey State Senator Linda Greenstein called it “un-American and morally reprehensible.” All three are Democrats.

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Rob Anthes serves as senior community editor, managing the Hamilton Post and Robbinsville Advance. He joined Community News Service full-time in 2007 after interning for the company in 2004 and 2006. The Association of Free Community Papers has recognized Rob's writing during its annual Best of the Best Awards 12 times, most recently in 2017. A lifelong Hamilton resident, Rob is a graduate of Steinert High School and Syracuse University.