RHODE ISLAND — Rhode Island officials have roundly condemned President Donald J. Trump’s Friday executive order suspending all refugees from entry to the country for 120 days, specifically barring Syrian refugees and blocking entry for 90 days to citizens of seven Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
U.S. Rep. David Cicilline joined Gov. Gina Raimondo, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza and a crowd of protesters at the State House opposing the ban.
Cicilline recounted the warning of a young woman from Turkey at a recent assembly at RISD following the election of Trump, who recalled how her country’s democracy was stolen from its people by a series of changes that started out as small things.
“We’re not going to make the same mistake here in America, because your presence here today is part of what we have to do to resist the hideous policies of this new administration,” said Cicilline, “And for people who say it’s not a Muslim ban, bullshit.” Cicilline said.
Cicilline pointed out that the nation, and Rhode Island, were founded on religious liberty, that Rhode Island was founded by a refugee, Puritan dissenter Roger Williams.
“Right on the building, etched in stone, it talks about the importance of ‘full liberty in religious concernment,’ Cicilline said. “We are better than this.”
Governor Gina Raimondo vowed the state would oppose Trump’s ban.
“We won’t back down, Mr. President. We won’t stand silently. Rhode Islanders stand strong against your Muslim ban,” Raimondo tweeted Sunday.
RI Attorney General Peter Kilmartin joined 16 Democratic Attorneys General Sunday in condemning the ban.
“As the chief legal officers for over 130 million Americans and foreign residents of our states, we condemn President Trump’s unconstitutional, un-American and unlawful Executive Order and will work together to ensure the federal government obeys the Constitution, respects our history as a nation of immigrants, and does not unlawfully target anyone because of their national origin or faith.”
“I stand with my fellow AGs and will work them to fight this unconstitutional and immoral order,” Kilmartin said.
U.S Congressman Jim Langevin also spoke against the ban.
“As a senior member of the Committee on Homeland Security, I am deeply concerned by the President’s order to drastically reduce the number of refugees we will accept. America has always stood as a beacon of hope for the less fortunate around the globe, and it is shameful that President Trump is extinguishing that light,” Langevin said in a statement Friday.
“I am also disturbed about the President’s freezing refugee resettlement from certain Muslim-majority countries and ceasing the intake of any refugees from Syria. Vetting immigrants to ensure they do not pose a risk to Americans is vital, which is why I have supported the extensive processes of the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security to investigate refugees’ backgrounds. These processes work. Denying entry to Syrians facing the ravages of civil war and desperately seeking safety for their families goes against who we are as Americans, as does favoring one religion over another. There has never been and never should be a religious litmus test to enter the United States. Refugees from Syria and other Muslim-majority countries – many of them women and children – are facing unspeakable violence and destruction in their native countries. To turn our backs to their suffering is contrary to the very core principles of our democracy.”
RI officials were not the only ones declaring the ban illegal. On Saturday, a federal judge in Brooklyn issued an emergency stay, allowing people who had landed in the United States with valid visas to remain, according to Mother Jones. The ban had prompted border officials at U.S. airports to block entry to legal U.S. residents caught mid travel by Trump’s order.
But at Washington Dulles International Airport, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials refused to release detained travelers as the federal court order instructed, the Daily Beast reported. New Jersey Senator Cory Booker visited the airport to demand the order be obeyed, but was stonewalled by CBP officials.
Booker declared their actions a violation of the Constitution, an vowed to continue fighting.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) called the situation a violation of the rule of law in the country and an affront to basic American values.
“When a judge in this country hands down an order, you follow it. Period. As a prosecutor, if I received a direction from the court, I shut up and did it, even if I didn’t like it. That’s how the rule of law works. Secretary Kelly assured the Senate when he was confirmed that the Department of Homeland Security would follow the law under his watch. His integrity is now on the line,” Whitehouse said.
“Americans of all walks of life understand that in one short week President Trump has attacked some of the basic virtues of our great nation. It’s been a campaign of shock and awfulness. I applaud the patriotism and decency of the many citizens who have flocked to airports to speak up on behalf of the vulnerable and the persecuted, and I stand with them,” Whitehouse continued.
Sen Jack Reed also spoke against the ban.
“President Trump’s intolerant and misguided executive order on refugees runs counter to America’s interests and values. A thorough vetting system developed since 9/11 is already in place and refugees are among the most heavily scrutinized of all people who enter our country. This amounts to a new religious test. It is wrong, unconstitutional, and will do nothing to keep us safe,” Reed said.
Defeating ISIL, al Qaeda, and other terrorist groups will require cooperation from the Muslim world, Reed said. He pointed out that Trump’s action hurts US alliances and undermines American security.
“The people targeted by this unnecessary action are fleeing the same violent extremists who would seek to disrupt our way of life. These are people who look to the United States to offer a safe harbor, people who, in many cases, put their lives on the line in support of American military objectives. Turning our backs on those in need is not the American way.
If President Trump’s plan becomes standard U.S. policy, it will be a blow to all Americans. Many Republicans repudiated this kind of thing last fall and now they are standing by in complicit silence. Regardless of one’s political party, it is time to keep faith with the Constitution and reject this religious ban before it spreads,” Reed said.