Polito disapproves of “walling off” state and country

BOSTON (STATE HOUSE) – The state’s number two Republican officeholder unequivocally opposed President Donald Trump’s immigration and refugee order in remarks Wednesday.

“This order walling off our state and our country is not something that we support, and it puts our economy and many people in our Commonwealth at risk and feeling insecure,” Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito told the News Service.

The Shrewsbury Republican suggested she would not attend protests that have sprung up in response to the order, but said she supports those taking action.

“These are important events for people to attend, to speak out. People feel emotional, insecure because of this particular executive order and I support their efforts,” Polito said when asked if she might be attend upcoming rallies similar to the Women’s March or the pro-immigration anti-Trump rally at Copley Square last weekend. “The governor and I have a lot of work to do that requires our attention and our focus.”

The rallies have drawn large crowds, including many of the state’s top elected officials.

In his public comments over the last several days, Gov. Charlie Baker has criticized Trump’s unilateral action to bar travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days, knocking both the way the executive order was rolled out and its impacts in Massachusetts.

During his appearance on WGBH’s “Ask the Governor” on Monday, a caller named Jared from Acton asked when they could expect Baker at Logan Airport, where people have gathered to protest the order, or whether opponents of the order should organize a protest in Baker’s hometown of Swampscott.

Baker responded that “the best and most significant way that we can support the rule of law” is by supporting Attorney General Maura Healey’s forthcoming legal action. On Tuesday, Healey, a Charlestown Democrat, moved to join a federal lawsuit seeking to strike down the entire controversial executive order. A spokesman affirmed that Baker opposes the executive order, and Healey said her office has worked with the governor’s office on the issue.

The president said the order is intended to protect Americans from terrorism, and said he would “find ways to help all those who are suffering” while prioritizing the safety of Americans. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said the order is not a ban on Muslims and said “religious liberty is one of our most fundamental and treasured values.”

“America is a proud nation of immigrants and we will continue to show compassion to those fleeing oppression, but we will do so while protecting our own citizens and border,” Trump said in a statement. “America has always been the land of the free and home of the brave. We will keep it free and keep it safe.”

A Jan. 30-31 Reuters/Ipsos poll found 49 percent of Americans agree with the order while 41 percent disagreed, with division following party lines. The poll of 1,201 people nationwide has a 3 percent margin of error.

“We disapprove that creating this wall will make us safer, and there’s urgency to this very important issue, and the courts are needed to decide this,” Polito said. “And hopefully it’s decided in the very near future so that people can go on with their lives and feel safe and secure here in our Commonwealth.”

Neither Baker nor Polito voted for Trump.

Asked if she supports or disapproves of the order, Polito said, “I disapprove of the executive order, for the reasons first and foremost that we have a global economy here in Massachusetts – from academics to health care to the business economy.”

The lieutenant governor spoke about president’s executive order as a metaphorical wall, and rejected the idea of a religious test.

“We obviously need clarity and we disapprove of using religious tests to decide who enters our Commonwealth and our country,” Polito said.

During his campaign, Trump proposed a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States, but his administration has rejected suggestions that the executive order issued on Friday is in any way a Muslim ban.

Baker and Polito face a delicate couple years if they seek re-election. Trump’s election has polarized the electorate nationally, and Baker and Polito have relied on support from Democrats and independents in addition to their Republican base. Polito has a history of challenging people in her party.

When she was a member of the House, Polito joined a group of Republican lawmakers who unsuccessfully sought a change in leadership of the caucus, backing Lew Evangelidis – now the Worcester County sheriff – following Republican losses in the 2008 election.

Copyright 2017 State House News Service