Barack Obama has broken his silence on his successor’s presidency after only 10 days, issuing a short statement that attacks Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban.
“The president [Obama] fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion,” a spokesman for Obama said.
During his final press conference as president earlier this month, Obama listed a number of issues that might prompt him to return to the political fray.
“There’s a difference between [the] normal functioning of politics and certain issues or certain moments where I think our core values may be at stake,” Obama said then. “I put in that category if I saw systematic discrimination being ratified in some fashion. I put in that category explicit or functional obstacles to people being able to vote, to exercise their franchise.
“I put in that category institutional efforts to silence dissent or the press. And for me at least I would put in that category efforts to round up kids who have grown up here and for all practical purposes are American kids and send them somewhere else, when they love this country.”
On Monday, spokesman Kevin Lewis said Obama was “heartened” by the amount of engagement being seen across the country – presumably a reference to the protests that sprang up over the weekend against Trump’s executive order. “In his final official speech as president, he spoke about the important role of citizen and how all Americans have a responsibility to be the guardians of our democracy – not just during an election, but every day,” Lewis said.
“Citizens exercising their constitutional right to assemble, organize and have their voices heard by their elected officials is exactly what we expect to see when American values are at stake,” he said.
Anger across America at Donald Trump’s travel ban – video report
Obama also rejected an attempt by the Trump administration to draw comparisons with his administration’s move in 2011 to impose more stringent checks on Iraqi refugees after two Iraqis were charged with terrorism offences in Kentucky. Unlike Trump’s order, the Obama policy applied only to Iraqi refugees and never specifically prohibited entry, according to the Associated Press.
Former Obama administration officials have denied it amounted to a ban. “While the flow of Iraqi refugees slowed significantly during the Obama administration’s review, refugees continued to be admitted to the United States during that time, and there was not a single month in which no Iraqis arrived here,” Jon Finer wrote in Foreign Policy. “In other words, while there were delays in processing, there was no outright ban.”
“With regard to comparisons to President Obama’s foreign policy decisions, as we’ve heard before,” Lewis wrote in his statement, “the president fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion.”
On Monday the Council on American–Islamic Relations (Cair) issued a lawsuit claiming Trump’s travel ban violates the first amendment of the constitution, which establishes the right to freedom of religion. And Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington, said he was also launching a legal challenge, saying the banning of immigrants based on their country of citizenship went against state statutes meant to stop discrimination based on place of birth or nationality.
The executive order issued by Trump on Friday denies refugees and immigrants from certain Muslim-majority countries entry to the United States.
Trump’s unprecedented action indefinitely closes US borders to refugees fleeing the humanitarian crisis in war-torn Syria and imposes a de facto ban on people traveling to the US from parts of the Middle East and Africa by prioritizing refugee claims “on the basis of religious-based persecution”.
Although Trump administration officials have continued to insist that the president’s actions did not target Muslims or any one faith, the text of the executive order made explicit that the US government would prioritize religious minorities in Muslim-majority countries upon resuming its admittance of refugees.
The president has himself said non-Muslim religious minorities would be prioritized for entry to the US. During an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network on Friday, Trump said his administration would place an emphasis on helping persecuted Christians in the Middle East and Africa.
The action puts in place a 90-day block on entry to the US from citizens from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia. It suspends the admittance of all refugees to the US for a period of 120 days, and terminates indefinitely all refugee admissions from Syria, where the nearly six-year war under Bashar al-Assad’s regime has led to more than 500,000 civilian deaths and created the displacement of an estimated 11 million Syrians.
It also caps the total number of refugees entering the US in 2017 to 50,000 – less than half the previous year’s figure of 117,000. (The Guardian)