17 state attorneys general, including Hawaii, release joint statement condemning president’s executive order

Protesters assemble at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017, after earlier in the day two Iraqi refugees were detained while trying to enter the country. On Friday, Jan. 27, President Donald Trump signed an executive order suspending all immigration from countries with terrorism concerns for 90 days. Countries included in the ban are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen, which are all Muslim-majority nations. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

Hawaii State Attorney General Doug Chin and 16 other state attorneys general released a joint statement Sunday condemning President Trump’s executive order that placed a 90-day ban on travel to the U.S. by citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.

“I myself am the son of immigrants, Chinese immigrants that came to the U.S. after fleeing the communist government back in  the 1950s, and so, it’s, I think this is something that is important for all of us in Hawaii to be concerned about, any time something like this happens,” Chin told KHON2.

The statement, issued by attorneys general of New York, California, Pennsylvania, Washington, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Virginia, Oregon, Washington, D.C.; Connecticut, Vermont, Illinois, New Mexico, Iowa, Maine, Rhode Island and Maryland, reads:

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.

Religious liberty has been, and always will be, a bedrock principle of our country and no president can change that truth.

Yesterday, multiple federal courts ordered a stay of the Administration’s dangerous Executive Order. We applaud those decisions and will use all of the tools of our offices to fight this unconstitutional order and preserve our nation’s national security and core values.

We are confident that the Executive Order will ultimately be struck down by the courts. In the meantime, we are committed to working to ensure that as few people as possible suffer from the chaotic situation that it has created.

This as the White House on Sunday tried to tamp down concerns about the president’s sweeping immigration order in the face of widespread protests, as some Republicans in Congress urged him to proceed with caution in the face of legal pushback. Top congressional Republicans, however, remain largely behind the new president.

During a round of Sunday show interviews, Trump’s aides stressed that just a small portion of travelers had been affected by the order, which temporarily bars the citizens of seven majority Muslim nations from entering the country. The aides also reversed course and said that citizens of those countries who hold permanent U.S. residency “green cards” will not be barred from re-entering the country, as officials had previously said.

“I can’t imagine too many people out there watching this right now think it’s unreasonable to ask a few more questions from someone traveling in and out of Libya and Yemen before being let loose in the United States,” insisted Trump’s chief of staff Reince Priebus. “And that’s all this is.”

As of Sunday afternoon, one legal permanent resident had been denied entry to the country as a result of the order, according to a federal law enforcement official. The official was not permitted to discuss the order’s impact publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The changes, said White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, are “a small price to pay” to keep the nation safe.

According to a Facebook statement by President Trump he said: “This is not about religion – this is about terror and keeping our country safe, my first priority will always be to protect and serve our country, but as president I will find ways to help all those who are suffering.”

The Hawaii State Attorney General disagrees.

“I would completely deny the idea that this is only relating to people’s countries and not having to do with religion,” Chin reacted. “These are Muslim majority countries that do not have Trump businesses in them. Everybody should be able to see really what’s happening here is a very systemic persecution of a certain religious group. And so, it might not be a race right now, but I think the concern is that if we allow this kind of step to take place, next time it will be somebody’s race. And I think that’s the concern.”

But it’s unclear whether the order, which also suspends refugee admissions for 120 days and indefinitely bars the processing of refugees from Syria, will accomplish that. The order does not address homegrown extremists already in America, a primary concern of federal law enforcement officials. And the list of countries in Trump’s order doesn’t include Saudi Arabia, where most of the Sept. 11 hijackers were from.

Priebus said that other countries could be added to the list.

Protesters rally against President Trump's refugee ban at Miami International Airport on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017.President Donald Trump’s immigration order sowed more confusion and outrage across the country Sunday, with travelers detained at airports, panicked families searching for relatives and protesters registering their opposition to the sweeping measure. (C.M. Guerrero/El Nuevo Herald via AP)
Protesters rally against President Trump’s refugee ban at Miami International Airport on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017.President Donald Trump’s immigration order sowed more confusion and outrage across the country Sunday, with travelers detained at airports, panicked families searching for relatives and protesters registering their opposition to the sweeping measure. (C.M. Guerrero/El Nuevo Herald via AP)

The order has sparked widespread protests and denunciations from Democrats and a handful of Republicans. Many have accused the administration of rushing to implement the changes, resulting in panic and confusion at the nation’s airports.

“You have an extreme vetting proposal that didn’t get the vetting it should have had,” said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who urged the new president to “slow down” and work with lawmakers on how best to tighten screening for foreigners who enter the United States.

“In my view, we ought to all take a deep breath and come up with something that makes sense for our national security” and reflects the fact that “America’s always been a welcoming home for refugees and immigrants,” he said.

The comments came the morning after a federal judge in New York issued an emergency order temporarily barring the U.S. from deporting people from the seven majority Muslim nations subject to Trump’s 90-day travel ban. The judge said travelers who had been detained had a strong argument that their legal rights had been violated.

The order barred U.S. border agents from removing anyone who arrived in the U.S. with a valid visa from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. It also covered anyone with an approved refugee application.

The Department of Homeland Security, however, said Sunday said the court ruling would not affect the overall implementation of the White House order.

“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,” the department said in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (AP Photo)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (AP Photo)

Top congressional Republicans, meanwhile, were backing Trump despite concerns raised Sunday from a handful of GOP lawmakers.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he supports more stringent screening mechanisms, though he cautioned that Muslims are some of the country’s “best sources in the war against terror.”

“I think it’s a good idea to tighten the vetting process But I also think it’s important to remember that some of our best sources in the war against radical Islamic terrorism are Muslims, both in this country and overseas,” he said.

He also stressed the need “to be careful as we do this,” and said it would be up to the courts to decide “whether or not this has gone too far.”

Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, meanwhile, warned of unintended consequences, expressing fear the order could “become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism.”

“This executive order sends a signal, intended or not, that America does not want Muslims coming into our country. That is why we fear this executive order may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security,” they wrote.

Trump billed his sweeping executive order as a necessary step to stop “radical Islamic terrorists” from coming to the U.S.

Koch political network, which is among the most influential players in the conservative movement, also condemned the plan Sunday.

“The travel ban is the wrong approach and will likely be counterproductive,” network co-chairman Brian Hooks said in a statement. “We believe it is possible to keep Americans safe without excluding people who wish to come here to contribute and pursue a better life for their families.”

Priebus was on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and Portman was on CNN’s “State of the Union,” while McConnell appeared on ABC’s “This Week.”

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