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Law professor: Trump’s immigration policies could go down as historic ‘moral failing’

President Donald Trump, center, with Vice President Mike Pence, left, and Defense Secretary James Mattis, right, watching, signs an executive action on extreme vetting at the Pentagon on Friday. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Pres­i­dent Donald Trump signed an exec­u­tive order on Friday to block all refugees from entering the U.S. for at least 120 days. The order also halts immi­gra­tion for 90 days from seven pre­dom­i­nately Muslim countries—Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen—while the gov­ern­ment reviews its vet­ting procedures.

“We want to ensure that we are not admit­ting into our country the very threats our sol­diers are fighting over­seas,” Trump said during the signing at the Pen­tagon. “We only want to admit those into our country who will sup­port our country and love deeply our people.”

The Amer­ican Civil Lib­er­ties Union con­demned the order, calling it a “euphemism for dis­crim­i­na­tion against Mus­lims,” and brought a chal­lenge on behalf of two Iraqis detained at John F. Kennedy air­port in New York on Friday night. Over the next 36 hours, U.S. fed­eral judges in Boston and New York ruled that author­i­ties could not deport cit­i­zens of the seven majority-​​Muslim coun­tries who had already arrived in the U.S. with valid visas, or who were in transit.

In response, Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, said on Sunday that people from the affected coun­tries who hold green cards will not be pre­vented from returning to the U.S., adding a layer of con­fu­sion to Trump’s exec­u­tive order.

We asked North­eastern law pro­fessor Rachel Rosen­bloom, an immi­gra­tion policy expert, to weigh in on Trump’s plan to keep “rad­ical Islamic ter­ror­ists” out of the United States and its poten­tial effects on refugees worldwide.

The U.S. has long been known as a haven for people fleeing war and oppres­sion. How might that opinion change if the country begins to ban refugees from entering the country, par­tic­u­larly if it appears as though they are being denied entrance due to their race or religion?

The United States has not always been known as a haven for people fleeing war and oppres­sion. In fact, many Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler, including Anne Frank, were denied visas to the United States and later per­ished in Nazi con­cen­tra­tion camps. Pres­i­dent Roosevelt’s deci­sion in 1939 to turn away a boat filled with Jewish refugees—the St. Louis—was a piv­otal event in our his­tory and led, after the war, to the pas­sage of the first U.S. laws aimed at facil­i­tating the admis­sion of refugees. The poli­cies that Pres­i­dent Trump has just announced will go down in the his­tory books as a moral failing of the same magnitude.

Matthew La Corte, an immi­gra­tion policy ana­lyst at a public policy think tank, noted that “pulling the U.S. out of its tra­di­tional lead­er­ship role in reset­tle­ment makes it harder to jus­tify refugee reset­tle­ment as a good policy for other coun­tries as well.” What effect do you think Trump’s immi­gra­tion poli­cies might have on the fate of refugees worldwide?

The truth is that there are other coun­tries that take in far more refugees than the United States. Turkey, Pak­istan, and Lebanon, for example, are cur­rently housing mil­lions of refugees. How­ever, the U.S. refugee reset­tle­ment pro­gram has been a model for sim­ilar pro­grams in Europe and else­where, and Trump’s deci­sion to sus­pend the pro­gram tem­porarily, and then to reduce its size and stop admit­ting Syrian refugees entirely, will have trou­bling ripple effects around the globe.

Some poten­tial immi­grants say that Trump’s exec­u­tive order to ban them from entering the U.S. has destroyed their dreams of moving to this country in search of a better life. What prac­tical impli­ca­tions might Trump’s refugee ban have on the hun­dreds of thou­sands of people whose lives are likely to be affected?

This order will have direct, imme­diate effects on many people, most obvi­ously on those who are cit­i­zens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen and also on many others—including many U.S. citizens—who are their family mem­bers, co-​​workers, and friends. Dra­conian immi­gra­tion laws affect entire com­mu­ni­ties, not just indi­vid­uals. It is impor­tant to under­stand that this ban applies not only to new visa appli­cants but also those who have been living and studying in the United States for years. You would have to go back to the shameful his­tory of the Chi­nese Exclu­sion Act and the Asi­atic Barred Zone to find such an openly dis­crim­i­na­tory policy. Sev­eral fed­eral judges have already blocked imple­men­ta­tion of the order, and we will see a lot more lit­i­ga­tion in the months to come.

Last week, Trump signed an exec­u­tive order to crack down on so- called “sanc­tuary cities” that shield undoc­u­mented immi­grants from fed­eral offi­cials, a move that was widely con­demned by human rights advo­cacy groups. What are their biggest concerns?

This exec­u­tive order con­tains threats of with­holding fed­eral funds from sanc­tuary cities but I am very skep­tical that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion will be able to carry out those threats. Trump seems to be sug­gesting that sanc­tuary cities are vio­lating fed­eral law, but that charge doesn’t hold up under scrutiny; courts have repeat­edly con­cluded that state and local police do not have to honor fed­eral requests to detain immi­grants. Fur­ther­more, it is firmly estab­lished in Supreme Court case law that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment cannot force cities and states to carry out fed­eral policy and cannot with­hold funds in order to coerce them into com­pli­ance. It has been heart­ening to see so many mayors, including Boston’s own Mayor Marty Walsh, speak out in defense of immi­grants and in sup­port of diverse, inclu­sive com­mu­ni­ties in the wake of the announce­ment of this policy.