Trump’s Controversial Order Taking its Toll

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President Donald Trump

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President Donald Trump’s executive order suspending the issue of visa to seven Muslim dominated countries is causing an uproar across the world with affected countries threatening to retaliate

By Olu Ojewale  |  Feb 13, 2017 @ 01:00 GMT  |

LESS than two weeks in office, President Donald Trump’s immigration policy appears to have ruffled so many feathers and put the world on the edge. On Friday, January 27, President Trump signed an executive order suspending new-refugee admissions for 120 days and blocking travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries such as Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia, for 90 days. Syrian refugees are banned indefinitely.

The order caused immediate controversy and protest in cities and airports around the United States as federal authorities started to implement the ban, preventing hundreds of travellers from boarding planes over the weekend. Many other travellers and refugees landing in the US were also either detained or sent back. Faced with the impeding chaos, federal judges quickly intervened to issue temporary stays, signalling that the future of the executive order would very likely be determined in court.

Nevertheless, reactions have been spontaneous across the world. In the US, former President Barack Obama broke the unwritten code of not criticising sitting president when he on Monday, January 30, criticised Trump’s executive order on immigration and backing protesters who besieged the nation’s airports to express their displeasure with Trump’s action.

“The President fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion,” Kevin Lewis, spokesman for the former president, said in a statement. Lewis added Obama felt the individuals protesting were “exactly what we expect to see when American values are at stake.”

It also appears that Trump is not enjoying total support of the people around him. In a shocking move, Travis Kalanick, Uber CEO, dropped out of President Trump’s business advisory council, on Thursday, February 2, citing his immigration executive order.

In a memo to employees, Kalanick said: “Earlier today I spoke briefly with the president about the immigration executive order and its issues for our community.”  The memo obtained by the CNN, said further: “I also let him know that I would not be able to participate on his economic council. Joining the group was not meant to be an endorsement of the president or his agenda but unfortunately it has been misinterpreted to be exactly that.”

Kalanick was one of 19 business leaders on the council, which was scheduled to have its first meeting on Friday, February 3.

Last Friday, January 30, Trump issued a sweeping executive order, which imposed a temporary travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Tech companies were outraged at the order, especially as many companies were founded by immigrants.

“There are many ways we will continue to advocate for just change on immigration but staying on the council was going to get in the way of that,” Kalanick said in the memo. “The executive order is hurting many people in communities all across America. Families are being separated, people are stranded overseas and there’s a growing fear the U.S. is no longer a place that welcomes immigrants.”

Elon Musk, chief executive of Ford, said he would raise objections to President Trump’s controversial immigration order at a meeting at the White House on Friday, February 3.

Musk defended his participation in Trump’s business advisory council just hours after Kalanick announced he was pulling out of it. “Advisory councils simply provide advice and attending does not mean that I agree with actions by the Administration,” Musk said in a statement posted on Twitter late Thursday, February 2.

“I understand the perspective of those who object to my attending this meeting,” he said. “But I believe at this time that engaging on critical issues will on balance serve the greater good.”

Musk said that he and others would “express our objections” to Trump’s travel ban that affects all refugees as well as people from seven Muslim-majority countries — and “offer suggestions for changes to the policy.”

On the international scene, Trump’s executive order has also been received with mixed reactions. Expectedly, politicians and leaders from some of the countries targeted by the ban were furious and threatened retaliation, while far-right leaders in Europe, whose rise to prominence has been largely built on anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment at home, celebrated the new US president.

For instance, Iraq parliament Foreign Affairs committee has said that a reciprocal suspension of US visas for contractors and others was a probability. The influential and highly controversial Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shia cleric, whose militia waged war against American troops throughout the US occupation, said in a statement on his website that American nationals should leave Iraq, in retaliation for the travel curbs.

“It would be arrogance for you to enter freely Iraq and other countries while barring to them the entrance to your country … and therefore you should get your nationals out,” Reuters reported him saying.

Similarly, Iran said it might take a similar action. Javad Zarif, Iranian Foreign minister, also took to twitter to lay out his government’s response in a series of fiery tweets. He wrote: “While respecting Americans and differentiating between them and hostile US policies, Iran will take reciprocal measures to protect citizens.”

In The Netherlands, Geert Wilders, the founder and leader of the far-right Party for Freedom, who was put on trial several times for hate speech against Muslims and immigrants and convicted in 2016 of “insulting an ethnic group and inciting discrimination” after he led chants against Moroccans, weighed in too. He tweeted in support of Trump’s ban, calling on him to expand it to include even more Muslim countries.

Longstanding US allies also jumped on social media to condemn what they saw as a deeply immoral policy aimed at dividing people and communities. Justin Trudeau, Canadian prime minister, extended an offer to accept refugees spurned by the US, and several European leaders followed suit.

A spokesperson for Angela Merkel, German chancellor, who has faced stiff criticism at home for her decision to allow large numbers of Syrian refugees into Germany, said the global fight against terrorism was no excuse for the ban and “does not justify putting people of a specific background or faith under general suspicion,” Reuters reported.

According to Reuters, “She expressed her concerns to Trump during a phone call and reminded him that the Geneva Conventions require the international community to take in war refugees on humanitarian grounds.”

In France, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment is running high, particularly after a series of high-profile terror attacks including the January 2015 Charlie Hebdo shooting, the November 2015 attacks in Paris, and the July 2016 truck attack in Nice. Yet Jean-Marc Ayrault, French foreign minister, had strong words for Trump, saying that “Terrorism knows no nationality. Discrimination is no response,” he said.

Many companies and organisations across the US have also demonstrated their opposition to the order in various forms of protests.

The Best & Tasty Deli Grocery in the Bronx, which has been selling coffee, bagels, salads and such for 24 hours a day since its opening nine months ago, on Thursday, February 2, with hundreds of similar delis, bodegas and small New York City businesses owned by Yemenis closed for the afternoon.

The business owners and employees said they were protesting President Trump’s executive order that temporarily restricting countries with predominantly Muslim populations, from entering the country.

The protest followed a similar work stoppage by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Saturday, January 30. Union members, many of whom are Muslim, refused to pick up passengers from the airport for an hour.

That notwithstanding, perhaps, the biggest confrontation to Trump’s order came from Sally Yates, former acting attorney general. Yates reportedly instructed the Justice Department not to defend Trump’s immigration order, banning travellers from seven Muslim-majority nations and temporarily halts refugee arrivals.

Irked by the audacity, Trump ordered the sacking of Yates immediately. The former acting attorney general was a remnant of the Obama administration, only in office until the Senate confirms Jeff Sessions as the next attorney general. Observers said her dismissal reflected the sudden political forces unleashed in Washington in the early days of the Trump administration as the president seeks to impose his authority on the federal government and shows little patience for those who would block him from implementing core campaign pledges. Dana Boente, who Trump appointed to succeed Yates as acting attorney general, has since rescinded Yates’ guidance and instructed the Justice Department to “defend the lawful orders of our president.”

The dramatic way Yates was removed did not go down well with some members of the Democratic Party, who reacted with an outrage and warned that it called into question the independence of the Justice Department in the Trump administration.

“Trump has commenced a course of conduct that is Nixonian in its design and execution and threatens the long-vaunted independence of DOJ,” John Conyers, a Democrat representative from Michigan tweeted. “If dedicated government officials deem his directives to be unlawful & unconstitutional, he will simply fire them as if government is a reality show.”

But Ted Cruz, a senator and Trump’s former GOP rival, jumped to the president’s defence. “After eight long years of a lawless Obama Department of Justice, it is fitting—and sad—that the very last act of the Obama DOJ is for the acting AG to defy the newly elected President, refuse to enforce the law, and force the President to fire her,” Cruz said in a statement.

That notwithstanding, with the way Trump is going observers are of the view that the new US president may end up alienating the country from the rest of the world than securing its safety. In the meantime, the world is waiting with bated breath to know his next line of action on other controversial issues.

—  Feb 13, 2017 @ 01:00 GMT

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