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Rand Paul: Don’t criticize immigration ban until you recognize the problems

Critics of President Trump’s order halting travel from seven Muslim-majority countries need to recognize the flaws in the United States’s immigration system before they challenge the president's action, Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden takes office, calls for end to 'uncivil war' Senate confirms Biden's intel chief, giving him first Cabinet official McConnell faces conservative backlash over Trump criticism MORE (R-Ky.) said Tuesday.

“People ought to step back and see if we can agree that there’s a problem in order to decide whether we like the solution,” Paul said during an appearance on MSNBC.

“And the problem is pretty clear that about 40 percent of people who come visit our country on a visa overstay their visa, and we have no idea where they are.”

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Paul pointed out that at least two of the hijackers in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were in the U.S. on expired visas and were moving back and forth between the U.S. and the Middle East, making it difficult for officials to know where they were or what they were doing.

“I think you have to pause the system from areas of high risk for terrorism, until you can improve the system,” he said.

“Overall, do I believe exchange with other cultures is good, people going back and forth is good, trade is good? Yes,” he said. “All of these things are good, but I think you have to make sure the system is working.”

Paul’s comments came amid backlash to Trump’s Friday executive order halting the country’s refugee resettlement program for four months and barring citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries — Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Libya, Sudan and Somalia — from entering the U.S. for 90 days.

But none of the Sept. 11 attackers were from the countries targeted by the president’s order, and critics have argued that the move effectively amounts to a Muslim ban.