WASHINGTON, D.C. - If the election cycle this past year wasn't divisive enough, it seems that in the last few days there has been no shortage of partisan bickering and unprecedented controversies coming out of Washington under the new President.
One of the more drastic moves made in the last few days was President Trump's executive order keeping refugees from entering the country for 120 days, and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim nations out for three months. A cornerstone of Trump's campaign centered around a promise for "extreme vetting" and a hardline stance on immigration, but none the less the executive order seems to have caught many Americans by surprise, and the subsequent backlash has inspired a whole new wave of protests. It hasn't just been bitter, "anti-Trumpers" who have expressed concern over the order. Political leaders from around the world were quick to comment on the new President's decision. UK Prime Minster Theresa May spoke out against the order, and over one million British citizens have since signed a petition to prevent Trump from making an official state visit to the UK. German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Trump herself and reminded the President of the United States' obligations to refugees under the Geneva Conventions. London Mayor Sadiq Khan called the ban "shameful and cruel." Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that refugees were welcome in Canada.
Even members of Trump's own party have spoken vehemently against the unintended consequences of making such a bold proclamation to the rest of the world. Most notably, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham said the ban would only help ISIS and other militant groups recruit more terrorists. The main recruitment tool for such terrorist organizations is framing the position of the West, and particularly the United States, as being anti-Muslim and seeking a religious war. Trump responded, via a tweet naturally, that the two Senators were trying to instigate World War III.
The seven countries named in the order are Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia. All are predominately Muslim countries. Trump's team has said the order is not about religion, but about keeping America safe from terrorists. Despite their insistence that the order isn't religious-based, Trump said in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network on Friday, that persecuted Christians will be given priority over other refugees seeking to enter the United States, saying they have been "horribly treated."
The administration has likened the new order to one put in place in 2015, but also repeatedly referenced 9/11 as part of the justification for the selection of countries. This has raised even more questions as none of the countries where the 9/11 hijackers came from (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon) were on the list. It was also noted that none of the countries Donald Trump has business with were on the banned list, prompting further concerns of conflict of interest.
The executive order was almost immediately challenged by a number of jurisdictions, most notably the now former U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates. Yates was a hold-over from the Obama administration, and Monday morning ordered Justice Department attorneys not to defend immigration executive order as she was not convinced it was lawful. Trump responded in a way that was his trademark in his previous profession of game show host, and fired Yates Monday night. Critics of Trump have rallied Yates as martyr for taking the position she did, and claim the firing has set a dangerous precedent in motion.
The executive order prompted responses from all sides, all across the country. Here's what some local politicians and organizations had to say:
U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) - "Keeping Americans safe should be our federal government's top priority. Strengthening our immigration system is critical to that end, and it’s common sense to have appropriate vetting procedures in place for individuals wishing to travel to our country. While I support thorough vetting, I do not support restricting the rights of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. Furthermore, far-reaching national security policy should always be devised in consultation with Congress and relevant government agencies.”
The Kansas Democratic Party - "The ban, enacted by Executive Order, is antithetical to the very founding principles of our country. It is not based in fact nor reality, but in hatred and inhumanity. The refugees seeking protections in the United States of America are overwhelmingly women, children, elderly, and the sick who need more sophisticated care than their home countries can provide. There is no sanity or cause in turning our backs on the vulnerable. President Trump and Republican leaders must remember that this is a country of immigrants, and that the United States pride itself in this. The Kansas Democratic Party, like so many others across our nation, stand with the people being affected by the Trump administration’s reckless and inhumane actions. The Party stands beside them in solidarity and will fight for their rights - as well as for the rights of the American people. The Party calls on our Kansas Republicans in Congress to put humanity before party politics and do the same. These are human lives at stake."
Pittsburg State University President Steve Scott - "I want you to know there has been a dialog among campus officials from the moment the executive order became public. In addition, it's important to note that currently only one student comes from the impacted countries. However, that does not diminish our concerns, as even one Pittsburg State University student being adversely affected is important to us. We will be reaching out to this individual and to all of our international students and faculty to offer reassurance and assistance. I have said on a number of occasions that to be a university, an institution must be an international university. Our 421 students from 41 countries around the world bring so much good and richness to this campus and community. I would argue that we all need to promote policies and laws that ensure such an environment can continue. We will keep the campus updated on additional developments as is warranted."
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback - "It has always been my desire for America to be a haven for those facing religious persecution and a refuge for those seeking freedom. But, we are also a sovereign nation, and as Governor of the state, the safety and security of Kansans has been my top priority. That is why I previously issued an executive order barring state resources from being utilized to relocate those from countries compromised by terrorism. Now, President Trump is taking action to ensure the integrity of the refugee program, calling for the implementation of thorough and comprehensive vetting, seeking to ensure true refugees are coming to America, while blocking those intent on doing us harm. Unlike the previous administration, President Trump is inviting state and local governments to play a broader role in the refugee resettlement process. This step, along with his prioritization of persecuted religions, indicates his commitment to helping those in need, while keeping America safe."