SALT LAKE CITY — Utah refugee officials and Muslim advocates said Monday that President Donald Trump's revised travel ban doesn't alleviate their concerns about an initiative they contend unfairly targets refugees and Muslim countries.
But Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, applauded Trump for making improvements.
Noor Ul-Hasan, a leader in Utah's Muslim community, said federal officials should focus on figuring out if there are ways to strengthen an already strenuous refugee vetting process rather than singling out Muslim countries without providing evidence about why they are more dangerous.
Utah's unique political culture, influenced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, puts a premium on personal decency and openness to immigrants and refugees.
The embrace of refugees by the religion has roots in the history of the faith, which counted many immigrants among its early members.
The revised travel order leaves Iraq off the list of banned countries but still affects would-be visitors from Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Libya. It is also narrower and specifies that a 90-day ban on people from the six countries does not apply to those who already have valid visas or people with U.S. green cards.
Trump's order keeps the entire U.S. refugee program suspended for 120 days, though refugees already formally scheduled for travel by the State Department will be allowed entry.
"They're trying to show they are more considerate and nice, but that's not enough," Ul-Hasan said. "Our government is supposed to be above other dictatorship regimes and have humanity."
Aden Batar, director of immigration and refugee resettlement for Catholic Community Services of Utah, said the ban leaves refugees stuck in dangerous countries.
Batar said his organization will likely have to lay off workers because of the temporary halt of refugee entries. The group employs about 65 people, most of them full time. He said many are former refugees, including him.
Refugee resettlement agencies receive federal money for every refugee they help resettle, which means his group will lose a key source of funding during the temporary halt of refugees entering the U.S. When the suspension is lifted, the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. will be capped at 50,000 for the 2017 fiscal year that ends Sept. 30.
"The new Trump administration says it's going to create new jobs. Well, he's cutting a lot of jobs for people who support their families," Batar said. "This new administration is creating a fear that doesn't exist. The refugees are not the enemy."
Hatch said in a statement that the revised ban makes significant progress toward what he called for after the first version: to avoid burdening innocent travelers and refugees fleeing violence and persecution.
"I applaud (Trump) for his leadership and urge him to continue the difficult work of crafting policies that keep us safe while living up to our best values," Hatch said.
Gov. Gary Herbert's staff was still reviewing the revised ban and said the governor had no immediate comment.
After the first travel ban was issued, the Republican governor questioned how much the president's actions could combat terrorism and whether he was targeting the right people.
The LDS Church did not issue any new comment Monday, only referring back to its statement issued after the first ban. In that statement, church leaders said they are concerned about people fleeing violence, war and religious persecution. The church urged "all people and governments to cooperate fully in seeking the best solutions to meet human needs and relieve suffering."18 comments on this story
It echoed a statement the faith issued in December 2015, when Trump floated the idea of a ban on Muslim immigration.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the LDS Church's First Presidency, was a refugee as a child when his family fled the Czech Republic amid war and moved to Germany.
Ul-Hasan said she will continue to advise Muslim immigrants in Utah, many of whom are from Somalia and have green cards or are citizens, to avoid traveling home to visit family because federal officials cannot be trusted.