Virginia lawmakers, officials condemn Trump's anti-immigration order

Congressman Tom Garrett yet to take strong stance

nstrumpcourtesyvoiceofamerica

President Trump signed an executive order banning immigrants and refugees from seven countries from entering the U.S.

Courtesy Voice of America

Several Virginia lawmakers and officials condemned President Donald Trump’s actions in signing an executive order Friday that bans refugees and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) and Attorney General Mark Herring (D) spoke against the ban amongst a crowd of protesters at Dulles Airport Saturday, where at least 63 individuals affected by the order — including a five-year-old boy — were detained for multiple hours.

“I have instructed my attorney general to look at all avenues we have here in Virginia, all legal remedies that we have to help these individuals who are stuck in our airport here in Virginia,” McAuliffe said during the press conference at Dulles. “You board a plane to come to America. You have a right to come to this country.”

McAuliffe later sent out a press release strongly urging Trump and other leaders to reverse the executive order.

“This executive order is antithetical to the values that make America great, and it will make our country less safe,” McAuliffe said in the statement. "On behalf of the people of Virginia, I urge President Trump and leaders in Washington to reverse this policy and restore our nation to its place as a beacon of opportunity for all.”

Both McAuliffe and Herring said their offices are working in conjunction with each other’s to search for legal ways to oppose the policy and protect affected Virginians.

Virginia’s two U.S. senators said they oppose the action on ideological grounds. Though Sen. Mark Warner (D) said he was open to a pause in the refugee program on national security grounds, he said such a pause would simply be for intelligence experts to review the program.

“These actions by the president presume the solution before the review is complete,” Warner said in a statement. “It is a policy targeting Muslims that national security experts have testified would harm, not help, our national security interests.”

Sen. Tim Kaine (D), Hillary Clinton’s former running mate in the 2016 presidential election, opposed the ban more concretely, on both ideological and practical grounds.

“I am appalled by the cruelty the Trump Administration has demonstrated over the past 24 hours,” Kaine said in a statement. “By indefinitely suspending the Syrian refugee program and imposing a religious test at our borders, he has defied everything our nation stands for. He's also weakened our national security by empowering ISIL's narrative that the West is at war with Islam and encouraging Muslim countries to further cooperate with adversaries like Russia and Iran.”

Kaine emphasized the discrepancy between Trump’s mission to defeat ISIL and his decision to ban Iraqi refugees, even though Iraq has been partnered with the U.S. military for years in the fight against ISIL.

Unlike both Virginian senators, Rep. Tom Garrett (R) of Virginia’s fifth district has yet to take a definitive stance on the executive order.

“I am still carefully reviewing the President's immigration order from this weekend but I truly hope both sides can work together on a reasonable solution to ensure we embrace legal immigration and simultaneously keep our nation safe,” Garrett wrote on a post on his Facebook page Monday afternoon.

As of press time, Garrett did not return a request for comment beyond his Facebook post.

While several Virginia government officials have been speaking out against the action on the national stage, their concerns are mirrored by several students at the University.

Hundreds of University and community members participated in a march Sunday organized by the Minority Rights Coalition and DREAMers on Grounds.

Furthermore, a student-organized initiative called Students for Humanity will hold events this week, including a fundraising campaign to benefit the American Civil Liberties Union and an immigration teach-in with University professors. The events are being promoted by the Persian Cultural Society and the Iranian Student Association.

In an email sent to the entire student body over the weekend, University President Teresa Sullivan alluded to several University students directly affected by the ban, and said the University administration is working with them. The University encourages students who may be affected by the executive order to avoid traveling abroad for the time being.

However, even students who are not from one of the seven countries mentioned in the ban could potentially to be affected.

One such student, Rawda Fawaz, a second-year College student, said because she is an Egyptian citizen, she and her family have been advised to not travel outside the country.

Though Fawaz and her family are permanent residents and green card holders, their immigration lawyer advised them that Egyptian border control is operating under vague instructions to prioritize Christian immigrants, and thus, several Muslim Egyptians are facing issues entering the United States despite not officially falling under the ban.

“Some Muslims have been let back into the country after hours of deliberation, and some have not even been let on their plane, and I don’t know what differentiates it, and that’s one of the most frustrating things,” Fawaz said.

In addition to being frustrated by the uncertainty, Fawaz said she was frustrated by the lack of reassurance from the University administration. She said she was not comforted by Sullivan’s email, and urges the University to pledge to not divulge students’ immigration status, like the University of Michigan has already done.

“The issue with undocumented students speaks for itself, but with people with visas and green cards, I don’t even know what would happen,” Fawaz said.

Since the U.S. government can reclaim visas, Fawaz expressed concern over a possible bill that could force schools to reveal immigration status information about students.

In an interview with The Cavalier Daily Monday, Sullivan said University policy already protects students’ immigration statuses.

“The only exception is where the student gives us permission to release their immigration [status],” Sullivan said. “Other than that, we’ll only do it as required by law.” 

related stories