President Donald Trump Friday sparked outrage when he signed a sweeping executive order restricting immigration and refugee resettlement. The order restricts immigration and banning entry via visas from seven Muslim-majority countries—Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Lybia and Yemen. It also suspends all refugee resettlement in the U.S. for 120 days, suspends indefinitely the Syrian refugee program, and lowers the number of refugees that will be welcomed to the U.S. this year by over 50 percent.
The reaction to what is being called a “Muslim Ban” was swift.
Protestors gathered at over forty airports around the country and in front of the White House. Crowds overtook terminals, parking garages and Customs and Border Patrol offices—not only on Friday but again on Saturday and Sunday. Lawyers offering legal aid stationed themselves outside of airline gates. Lawmakers took to the streets to join the crowds. Celebrities pledged on Twitter to match donations to organizations doing work to fight the order and provide assistance to those being detained and deported. Faith leaders released statements calling the move “a dark moment in U.S. history” and “a miscarriage of justice”—including Trump’s own childhood church. Universities condemned the ban and worked to protect their international students.
As of Monday afternoon, five federal judges have ruled against parts of the policy—and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the attorney general of Washington state had filed lawsuits against the order. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced Friday evening that a federal judge had approved their request for a nationwide stay preventing the deportation of those stranded in U.S. airports due to the ban.
Democratic lawmakers have also vowed to take action and were quick to speak out in protest against the order: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi organized a rally happening tonight at the Supreme Court in opposition to the ban, and Democrats in both chambers of Congress are putting forward legislation to reverse and rescind the ban. “President Trump’s unconstitutional executive order banning refugees and the citizens of Muslim nations betrays everything the Statue of Liberty and our nation stand for,” Pelosi wrote Sunday in a “Dear Colleague” letter. ” The President’s action is not only unconstitutional but immoral. We are witnessing an historic injustice unfold, and we must keep the pressure on.”
Former President Barack Obama, in his first statement as a public citizen, said he was “heartened” by protests against the order and rejected Trump’s claim that the policy is in line with his own administration’s policies. Obama pledged before leaving office only to speak out against Trump when he felt “our core values may be at stake.”
Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who was appointed by the Obama administration, was dismissed by the White House Monday for refusing to enforce the order. Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Daniel Ragsdale, was abruptly replaced Monday as well. Trump’s AG pick, Senator Jeff Sessions, was an outspoken supporter of the ban when it was proposed during the Trump campaign. He has yet to be confirmed.
Trump’s ban will impact 500,000 green-card holders and 17,000 international students currently studying in the U.S.—but will also shut out, indefinitely or temporarily, 40 percent of the refugees taken in by the U.S. The United States—long a historically welcoming nation of resettling—will turn away 800 refugees this week alone. In the time of the 120-day suspension for refugees, 20,000 could have resettled. Last year, the U.S. took in nearly 85,000 refugees—most of whom were women and children and 14 percent of whom were from Syria. This year, the U.S. will cap refugee resettlement at 50,000 and Syrian refugees will be barred from finding haven on American soil.
The executive order comes after a campaign in which Trump called repeatedly for a “total and complete ban” on Muslims entering the United States, which is an unconstitutional promise. Former Mayor of New York City Rudy Guiliani took credit for the order, telling Fox News Saturday that he and a panel of lawyers and legal experts crafted the ban to evade charges of religious-based discrimination. “I’ll tell you the whole history of it,” Guiliani said. “When [Trump] first announced it, he said ‘Muslim ban.’He called me up, he said, ‘Put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally.’ And what we did was we focused on, instead of religion, danger. The areas of the world that create danger for us, which is a factual basis, not a religious basis. Perfectly legal, perfectly sensible.”
Experts, however, have warned that the order could only worsen the threat of terrorism—and critics of the order have rightfully pointed out that none of the nations encompassed by the ban have proven, in the past, to be a significant threat to the U.S. “Trump’s order says that it protects American people from the threat of terrorism,” Jennifer Williams wrote for Vox. “It doesn’t necessarily do that. But it does show that the new president is serious about putting the Islamophobia that was a central part of his campaign into practice. That’s because none of the perpetrators of the major U.S. terrorist attacks carried out in the name of Islam in the past 15 years have come from the nations on that list. In fact, the country home to the biggest number of terrorists who have carried out successful attacks inside the U.S. is the U.S. itself.” Williams went on to point out that nations like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt ostensibly pose a greater threat to the U.S. than the seven Trump chose—but that even more important, most attacks since Sept. 11, 2001 on U.S. soil have been committed by legal residents or citizens.
Over 100 State Department employees have signed on to an internal dissent cable warning that Trump’s order “will increase anti-American sentiment” abroad and damage relationships between the U.S. and leaders in these countries—”including those for whom this may be a tipping point towards radicalization.” What’s more, they wrote, the move would come at a great human cost—impacting those traveling for funerals or to seek medical care, for example.
The employees ended the memo with a simple message for the President: “We do not need to alienate entire societies to stay safe.”