TWIN FALLS — Mike Crapo thinks we need better screening for refugees entering the United States, but he opposes banning them from coming based on what group or what country they come from.
“I don’t think we should have any across-the-board bans of certain categories of people,” Idaho’s senior U.S. senator told the Times-News editorial board Wednesday. “I believe that what we need is a much more focused effort to look at whether we can adequately vet.”
Crapo said he disagrees with banning people from the country based either on their religion or on their country of origin, both of which have been proposed at times by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who last year proposed banning Muslims from entering the United States and has said more recently he wants to ban people who come from countries with terrorism links.
However, he stressed, there is legitimate concern about whether terrorists are able to make it into the U.S. through refugee resettlement, and the federal government needs to address it.
“The solution is to resolve the vetting issue,” Crapo said.
Refugees looking to enter the United States must go through multiple interviews, fingerprinting and background checks — a vetting process that can typically take up to two years. However, many have expressed worries about the adequacy of the background checks for refugees coming from Syria in particular, where millions of people have been displaced by civil war but where U.S. security agencies don’t have the same ability to verify people’s documents and stories that they do for some other countries. After the terrorist attacks in Paris late last year, many Republican governors, including Idaho’s C.L. “Butch” Otter, called for halts to refugee resettlement or made moves to try to block the resettlement of Syrians.
Crapo, a Republican from Idaho Falls, was first elected in 1998 and this year is running for re-election to his fourth term against Democrat Jerry Sturgill, a Twin Falls native who lives in Boise now, and Constitution Party candidate Ray Writz, of Coeur d’Alene.
Crapo was unopposed in 2004 and won with 71 percent of the vote in 2010. He announced in May 2015 that he was running for re-election, and said he started to campaign and raise money a year ago.
“I take nothing for granted,” Crapo said.
According to the last campaign finance filings, which were due in mid-July, Crapo has a little more than $5 million on hand in his main campaign account. Sturgill had almost $428,000. The only Federal Election Commission filing from Writz so far has been his statement of candidacy in March.
Sturgill said Wednesday he has worked with refugees who contribute to society and the economy and said he supports the inclusive views toward immigrants and refugees espoused by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which both Sturgill and Crapo are members. Sturgill said he would oppose closing our borders based on fear.
“It’s inconsistent with my belief, it’s inconsistent with the church’s position, and we should continue to be that kind of beacon to the world that we’ve been historically,” he said.
Crapo reaffirmed his support for Trump Wednesday, saying he views the election as a contest between an “opportunity society” and a “caretaker society.” Crapo said a win by Democrat Hillary Clinton would lead to a federal government with a larger role in the economy and less of an emphasis on individual freedom and strong national defense. Also, Crapo said, the next president will likely appoint two or three Supreme Court justices, and he said the list of potential nominees Trump has made public shows he would appoint judges who share Crapo’s strict constructionist views.
“It’s a contest between two very different ideas about how we should govern in America,” Crapo said.
Sturgill said he is “certainly not going to vote for Donald Trump,” and that he doesn’t know how anyone could. Sturgill interpreted Crapo’s endorsement as caving to partisan pressure.
“It’s a symptom of the hyper-partisanship and the dysfunction of Washington,” he said.
Crapo didn’t endorse anyone during the Republican primary, and he said Wednesday that, while Trump wasn’t his first choice, he was the candidate the voters chose. Regarding Trump’s rhetorical style, Crapo said, Trump “has a way of making very aggressive statements and bold statements that stir people up,” and that this trait of his is responsible both for people’s unease with Trump and for much of his support.
“People want somebody who will say it like it is, or say strong statements, and push back on the current political system in the United States,” Crapo said.