Gov. Roy Cooper opposes President Trump’s immigration order even though he once backed a different approach to restricting Syrian refugees, saying on Wednesday that the two circumstances are “very different.”
Earlier, N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein told a TV station he is willing to sue over Trump’s ban on behalf of North Carolina if necessary.
After an event in Raleigh, Cooper told reporters he hoped the controversy could be resolved soon.
“I believe firmly that we don’t need to be divisive, that we need to make sure that our homeland is safe and the vetting process is thorough and that it is tough,” the Democratic governor said. “But at the same time we do not need a religious test.”
The Trump administration has denied that the executive order he issued on Friday constitutes a ban on Muslims. It indefinitely prohibits Syrian refugees from entering the United States, suspends all refugees from being admitted into the country for 120 days and stops people from seven mostly Muslim countries for 90 days. The order includes an exemption for persecuted religious minorities.
Cooper issued a statement on Sunday calling for a tough vetting process but not one that bans people because of their religious beliefs.
On Monday, the Republican national political blog RedState criticized Cooper for opposing Trump’s order now but in 2015 supporting a “pause” on Syrian refugees coming to North Carolina.
Cooper said Wednesday the situations were different and his comments were not contradictory. In 2015, he said he favored asking the federal government to take the time to ensure refugee screening was sufficient, while not engaging in “political fear-mongering.” Trump’s order, he said Wednesday, amounts to a religious ban.
In an interview with Time Warner Cable News on Tuesday, Stein said he is willing to sue over Trump’s order.
“I can sue to protect North Carolinians, so that if there are North Carolinians who are suffering because of this travel ban — and its very ham-handed way in which it was written and being administered — then I could come in on behalf of the people of North Carolina,” Stein said.
The attorneys general of Massachusetts, Virginia, New York and Washington have joined or initiated legal actions challenging the ban.