Executive Branch

Notable Responses to the Executive Orders on Immigration, NSC, ISIS, and Ethics Commitments

Nora Ellingsen
Saturday, January 28, 2017, 11:07 PM

Unsurprisingly, President Trump’s Executive Order suspending immigrant and refugee entry to the US has set off a firestorm of high-profile reactions. Below are a few notable responses.

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Unsurprisingly, President Trump’s Executive Order suspending immigrant and refugee entry to the US has set off a firestorm of high-profile reactions. Below are a few notable responses.

Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, tweeted a letter he sent to John Kelly, the head of the Department of Homeland Security. In the letter, Representative Schiff criticized the discriminatory nature of the Executive Order, and the subsequent “capricious enforcement” of the order:

Yesterday, President Trump signed an executive order effectively banning visa holders from certain majority muslim countries and refugees from entering the Untied States. This order contravenes the principles of religious liberty, equality, and compassion that our nation was founded upon. In its discriminatory impact of Muslims, it also plays into the Al Qaeda and ISIS narrative that the West is no place for Muslims and that we are engaged in a war of civilizations.

In addition to its cruelty, the order contains misstatements of fact and law and is vaguely drafted, suggesting that little consideration was given to its implications. Additionally, more than 24 hours after the order was signed, it has not be posted to the White House website.

Customs and Border Protection and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services personnel under your supervision have been charged with implementing this order. Already there have been reports that legal permanent residents and visa holders have been prevented from boarding flights, detained upon arrival, and questioned about their religion, political beliefs, and even views about the President. There have also been reports that the order may mean denying entry to travelers who hold dual citizenship or were born in one of the seven muslim countries named in the order. The capricious enforcement of this order is likely to heighten its harmful effects and present legal and constitutional issues.

Democrats in Washington have been vocal on Twitter over the past 24 hours, denouncing Trump’s EO and its effects on their constituents. Senator Kamala Harris called out the Executive Order as a Muslim ban on Twitter:

On Holocaust Memorial Day, President Trump enacted an executive order that will restrict refugees from Muslim-majority countries. Make no mistake — this is a Muslim ban. We have opened our doors to those fleeing violence and oppression for decades, by presidents on both sides of the aisle. Doing so has helped global stability and made our country stronger. We can't turn our backs on the millions of refugees who are contributing to our country and our economy. During the Holocaust, we failed to let refugees like Anne Frank into our country. We can't let history repeat itself.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) tweeted with similar disgust:

Let’s be clear: A Muslim ban by any other name is still a Muslim ban. ‪@realDonaldTrump's order restricting immigrants from Muslim countries & freezing admission of refugees is a betrayal of American values. We are a country of immigrants & refugees, of people fleeing religious persecution & seeking freedom, a country made strong by diversity. The Syrian refugees admitted to the US last yr are kids, doctors, teachers, engineers, & college students who sought safety from terrorists. Turning our back on refugees because of their religion creates recruiting fodder for ISIS and other terrorist groups. On ‪#HolocaustRemembranceDay, we remember what can happen when hatred & fear turns neighbor against neighbor. When we abandon those in need.”

According to the Washington Post, the reaction from the Republican side of the aisle has been more mixed, with some Republican lawmakers voicing their support for the Executive Order, while the vast majority remains silent. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) spokesperson denied that the Executive Order amounted to a ban on Muslims: “This is not a religious test and it is not a ban on people of any religion.” The Post also pointed out that Mitch McConnell has yet to chime in.

However, other Republicans have begun speaking out against the Executive Order. In a series of tweets, Representative Justin Amash (R-MI) condemned the Order:

Like Pres. Obama's executive actions on immigration, Pres. Trump's executive order overreaches and undermines our constitutional system. It's not lawful to ban immigrants on basis of nationality. If the president wants to change immigration law, he must work with Congress. The president's denial of entry to lawful permanent residents of the United States (green card holders) is particularly troubling. Green card holders live in the United States as our neighbors and serve in our Armed Forces. They deserve better. We must do much more to properly vet refugees, but a blanket ban represents an extreme approach not consistent with our nation's values. While EO allows admittance of immigrants, nonimmigrants, and refugees "on a case-by-case basis," arbitrariness would violate Rule of Law. EO appears to be more about politics than safety. If concern is radicalism/terrorism, then what about Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and others? Finally, we can't effectively fight homegrown Islamic radicalism by perpetuating “us vs. them” mindset that terrorists use to recruit. We must ensure U.S. remains dedicated to Constitution, Rule of Law, and liberty. Capitalism creates prosperity and improves assimilation.

Representative Charlie Dent (R-PA) was reported as being the first Republican to speak out against the Order. Representing a district with a sizable Syrian population, Representative Dent spoke out against the administration on Saturday: "I think it is important this executive action be temporarily suspended or not enforced until a fully vetted initiative can be announced"

Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) released the following statement, warning that the Executive Order was too broad and may make America less safe:

The President is right to focus attention on the obvious fact that borders matter. At the same time, while not technically a Muslim ban, this order is too broad. There are two ways to lose our generational battle against jihadism by losing touch with reality. The first is to keep pretending that jihadi terrorism has no connection to Islam or to certain countries. That’s been a disaster. And here's the second way to fail: If we send a signal to the Middle East that the U.S. sees all Muslims as jihadis, the terrorist recruiters win by telling kids that America is banning Muslims and that this is America versus one religion. Both approaches are wrong, and both will make us less safe. Our generational fight against jihadism requires wisdom.

According to the Washington Post, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Edward R. Royce (R-CA) also took a more measured approach, supporting the EO, but calling for resolution for those who were affected while in transit:

Pausing the intake of refugees from terror hot spots is the right call to keep America safe. I hope cases of individuals with visas traveling as this executive action went into effect — including some who served alongside U.S. troops — will be resolved quickly.

According to Politico, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) congratulated the President on taking, what he viewed to be, the appropriate steps forward to keep Americans safe:

The primary duty of the federal government is to keep Americans safe. Today, President Trump has begun to fulfill this responsibility by taking a number of critical steps within his authority to strengthen national security and the integrity of our nation’s immigration system. As ISIS terrorists have vowed to use the immigration system to inflict harm, it’s imperative that we know who is coming and going from our country. National security officials have repeatedly warned that we dramatically lack the resources and information to fully vet refugees from countries of concern, like Syria.

House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) also released a statement in support of the President’s new Order:

We are a compassionate nation and a country of immigrants. But as we know, terrorists are dead set on using our immigration and refugee programs as a Trojan Horse to attack us. Today, President Trump signed an order to help prevent jihadists from infiltrating the United States. With the stroke of a pen, he is doing more to shut down terrorist pathways into this country than the last Administration did in eight years. As Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, I will ensure the appropriate steps are taken to tighten immigration and refugee screening. And in the long run, I will work with the White House to make sure the United States remains both a beacon of hope—open to all freedom-loving people—and a nation well-defended against all who wish to do it harm.

The New York Times reports that, outside of Washington, Silicon Valley was especially vocal in its reaction to the Executive Order. Executives at Facebook, Google, and Apple all spoke out against the order, emphasizing their companies’ reliance on employees from abroad.

UPDATE: The Department of Homeland Security has released the following statement:

WASHINGTON – The Department of Homeland Security will continue to enforce all of President Trump’s Executive Orders in a manner that ensures the safety and security of the American people. President Trump’s Executive Orders remain in place—prohibited travel will remain prohibited, and the U.S. government retains its right to revoke visas at any time if required for national security or public safety. President Trump’s Executive Order affects a minor portion of international travelers, and is a first step towards reestablishing control over America's borders and national security.

Approximately 80 million international travelers enter the United States every year. Yesterday, less than one percent of the more than 325,000 international air travelers who arrive every day were inconvenienced while enhanced security measures were implemented. These individuals went through enhanced security screenings and are being processed for entry to the United States, consistent with our immigration laws and judicial orders.

The Department of Homeland Security will faithfully execute the immigration laws, and we will treat all of those we encounter humanely and with professionalism. No foreign national in a foreign land, without ties to the United States, has any unfettered right to demand entry into the United States or to demand immigration benefits in the United States.

The Department of Homeland Security will comply with judicial orders; faithfully enforce our immigration laws, and implement President Trump’s Executive Orders to ensure that those entering the United States do not pose a threat to our country or the American people.

UPDATE II: Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain have released a statement:

UPDATE III: Republicans continue to comment on the Executive Order.

Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) discussed the EO on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday morning:

You have an extreme vetting proposal that did not get the vetting it should have had. In my view, we ought to all take a deep breath and come up with something that makes sense for our national security and again for this notion that America has always been a welcoming home for refugees and immigrants.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also broke his silence on ABC’s “This Week.” When asked by Martha Raddatz whether he supports the temporary immigration ban, Senator McConnell cautiously replied:

When pushed further to elaborate on his support of the ban, Senator McConnell said he would defer to the courts, but did not condemn the ban:

Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) went further, posting a statement on Medium:

UPDATE IV: Lawmakers and former members of the intelligence community reacted Sunday to NSPM-2, and President Trump’s changes to the National Security Council.

Appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) expressed his concerns about making Stephen Bannon a permanent member of the Regulars Committee:

Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) tweeted his thoughts:

Former Obama advisor David Axelrod tweeted that Bannon’s new role would, “will cheer right wing nationalists in France and Germany” and clarified how new all of this is: “I never sat on NSC principals comm. I sat on sidelines as observer on some issues 2 gain an understanding of decisions. Bannon's new ground.”

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates was more concerned about the role of chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, telling ABC News:

Finally, former National Security Advisor Susan Rice didn’t mince her words and tweeted:

UPDATE V: According to the New York Times, Obama’s Special Counsel for Ethics and Government Reform commented on the administration’s Executive Order on ethics commitments by executive branch appointees:

Update VI: More Republicans have continued to break ranks with the Trump administration. Fortune has compiled a list of Republicans who have criticized the Executive Order here.

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) released a statement Sunday evening:

According to the Bangor Daily News, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME):

The worldwide refugee ban set forth in the executive order is overly broad and implementing it will be immediately problematic. It could interfere with the immigration of Iraqis who worked for American forces in Iraq as translators and bodyguards — people who literally saved the lives of our troops and diplomats during the last decade and whose lives are at risk if they remain in Iraq. While it is appropriate to consider religious persecution when reviewing a request for refugee status, a preference should not be given to people who practice a particular religion, nor should a greater burden be imposed on people who practice a particular religion. As I stated last summer, religious tests serve no useful purpose in the immigration process and run contrary to our American values.

Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) discussed the Executive Order on CNN’s State of the Union:

I think it was not properly vetted. So, you have an extreme vetting proposal that didn’t get the vetting it should have had. And as a result, in the implementation, we’ve seen some problems. … I think we should slow down. Let’s make two points. One, our country is not as safe as it should be. I’m on the Homeland Security Committee. We’ve had plenty of testimony in the last couple of years about the fact that there is not adequate screening, particularly on the Visa waiver programs. So I do think we need to tighten things up. And I think there’s general consensus about that. Congress passed legislation to do so at the end of 2015. But second, we have to do it in a way that’s consistent with our values and consistent with our national security. We are this beacon of hope and opportunity for the rest of the world. That’s our self-image and it’s also an important part of our foreign policy. So we have to do it in a way that makes sense. And we have a Cleveland Clinic doctor who, for instance, was turned away last night apparently. That’s not the way to do it. In my view, we ought to all take a deep breath and come up with something that makes sense for our national security and again for this notion that America has always been a welcoming home for refugees and immigrants. In fact, we are more welcoming than any country in the world and we should continue to be so.

Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), a former FBI Special Agent, also criticized the Order:

The president's policy entirely misses the mark. We were focused on solutions, not engaging in partisan attacks or declaring a singular fix to a complicated issue. The reality is, terrorism inspired by radicalism and hate is global in scope and, as such, requires a comprehensive response, not a purely regional focus. While serious actions are needed to protect our country, these must not be done in a way that singles out any specific nations or ethnicities.

Representative Will Hurd (R-TX), a former CIA officer released the following statement:

A one-size-fits-all solution is not the way to solve one of the most complex National Security challenges we face -- Islamic Terrorism. The Executive Order banning visa adjudication from seven countries does not make us safer; rather it decreases the security of our homeland and endangers the lives of thousands of American men and women in our Military, diplomatic corps and intelligence services. There are almost 10,000 Americans serving in Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. A target has been placed on their backs by increasing tensions in an already volatile region. These men and women are fighting alongside citizens of those countries in order to keep Islamic Extremists on the run and off our shores. As an undercover CIA officer I spent most of my adult life chasing down terrorists that would do our homeland and U.S. Citizens harm, so I know how important it is to cooperate with foreign allies to get the job done. We cannot fight the scourge of Islamic Extremism alone, and to prevent terrorists from having safe havens from which to plot, plan and train for attacks on the United States, we need to work with all allies around the world. This visa ban is the ultimate display of mistrust and will erode our allies' willingness to fight with us. The ban also provides terrorists with another tool to gain sympathy and recruit new fighters. The way to solve this problem is to continue tightening visa loopholes, ensure that the right intelligence is being shared with our allies and amongst U.S. agencies and organizations, and to use a number of tools to keep Americans from falling prey to ISIS propaganda. Several bills passed the House or Senate last Congress to address these issues, but were not signed into law. I will work to re-introduce legislation designed to keep all Americans safe, giving our President the opportunity to sign legislation that will protect our shores from those who seek to do us harm.

Nora Ellingsen is a third-year student at Harvard Law School. Prior to graduate school, she spent five years working for the FBI's Counterterrorism Division. She graduated cum laude from Northwestern University with a B.A. in Psychology and Political Science.

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