By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
President Trump’s executive order on immigration has created a firestorm of reaction.
“I’ve never seen in all my years working on immigration and immigration reform such fear and also, however, such absolute commitment to fight back, to push back,” said Sen. Bob Mernendez.
The nine-page order issued Friday is full of legalese, but boils down to this:
— A 90-day ban on immigration from seven Muslim countries including Iran and Iraq
— Improved vetting of all immigrants
— A 120-day suspension of the refugee program from all countries.
— After 120 days, immigration priority given to persecuted religious minorities
— No Syrian refugees until further notice
— Creation of a bio-metric tracking system for all foreigners who enter the country
The president noted in the order that terrorist acts have been committed by people here on student visas, work visas and tourist visas.
Republicans generally support what the president is trying to do.
“We’ve had plenty of news, the San Bernardino folks who killed 14 Americans a couple years ago. We need to control who comes into our country and who’s here and that’s what Donald Trump ran on in 2016. He was elected president and he’s keeping his promise,” said Sen. Michael Doherty.
Most Democrats say it violates the Constitution or at least is un-American.
At a press conference in his Newark office today, Sen. Cory Booker said the executive order actually plays into the hands of jihadists and ISIS by offering them a new propaganda tool.
“What Donald Trump has done in our country right now is put American citizens at greater risk, greater potential, compromised our safety, as well as undermining our core values. Appealing to fears, appealing to concerns about safety, as a way to turn away from our values, to me, is unacceptable,” Booker said.
Booker and Menendez said there have been no terrorist killings in America by anyone from any of the seven countries singled out.
The executive order was sprung on the country, with no time for bureaucratic adjustment. So far, five federal judges have temporarily stayed it.
One result was confusion at airports this weekend, here and abroad, as even permanent residents of the United States had trouble returning from any of the seven designated danger zones.
“They already have gone through enormous processes to become permanent residents. To say to them that they cannot return to what is their country is pretty outrageous,” Menendez said.
The mayors of New Jersey’s two largest cities were also critical of the president.
Steve Fulop said as a descendant of Holocaust survivors he was extra sensitive to religious persecution.
Ras Baraka vowed to keep his police force out of the business of helping the feds round up undocumented immigrants.
“America was founded on in the first place. We will not participate in what I have been making analogous to the Fugitive Slave Act, him deputizing local law enforcement to go out and find people to return them where he thinks they belong. We will not participate in that,” he said.
Booker and Menendez were asked what they can do to reverse the order, or weaken it. Menendez said de-fund certain aspects of it will, or undo the 287G program that enables local law enforcement to get involved in immigration enforcement. He said the Congress could strengthen the rights of permanent residents, or file amicus briefs in some of these lawsuits. Booker suggested a way to fight back would be to block Jeff Sessions’ nomination as attorney general and said he would be voting no on that this week. On the other side, Republican Sen. Mike Doherty said he sees politics at work here and that Democrats like Booker and Menendez and Chuck Schumer were trying to re-play the election of 2016 and he said they can’t do that.