President Donald Trump said Sunday his controversial immigration order is “not a Muslim ban,” but Cardinal Blase J. Cupich said Trump’s restrictions on people traveling from seven Muslim majority nations to the United States is “a dark moment in U.S. history.”
Then, Gov. Bruce Rauner became the most prominent Illinois Republican to voice concern about the travel ban, despite Rauner’s move in November 2015 to temporarily bar Syrian refugees from Illinois. Rauner’s staff shared the governor’s trepidation Sunday after Trump’s travel ban triggered chaos and protests at O’Hare Airport and in other cities.
Now Chicago, a city full of immigrants, is on edge. Some immigrants are here legally. Some are not. Some are fleeing violence and persecution from their home countries. But they are all potentially affected by orders Trump issued in the first week of his presidency.
Trump signed an executive order Friday barring people from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Libya from entering the United States for 90 days. It was not clear over the weekend whether the order covered only refugees — people fleeing violence or persecution — or immigrants granted legal residence in the United States who were traveling abroad.
The president has also set in motion an effort to strip federal funding from sanctuary cities like Chicago, but he has yet to guarantee that youths here illegally through no fault of their own, also known as “Dreamers,” will not be deported.
All of this has put immigration-related issues on the front burner of Chicago politics as Trump moves quickly to fulfill his campaign pledges.
Among the Sunday developments:
• The White House said green card holders — legal permanent residents — who travel from the seven nations in question will be allowed entry to the United States. Several Chicago-area green card holders were detained over the weekend at O’Hare. They included Abir Hemaidan, a green card holder who left in September to visit family in Syria as well as the Netherlands.
Hemaidan was detained at O’Hare after landing there about 1:20 p.m. aboard a United Airlines flight from Amsterdam on Saturday, court records show. Her attorney, Chirag Badlani of Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd., filed a petition in federal court seeking her release. Nine hours after her flight landed, Badlani said Hemaidan was on her way to meet her family.
During a briefing Sunday, a Trump senior administration official said the “confusion” over the handling of returning green card holders was “semantic in nature.” The official cast their detention as a minor inconvenience, adding that only about 170 people were involved in airport detentions over the weekend.
The implementation of the executive order Trump signed Friday was “a massive success story,” the Trump White House official said.
• Trump said in a statement that his order for “extreme vetting” is “not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is not about religion — this is about terror and keeping our country safe.
“There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order. We will again be issuing visas to all countries once we are sure we have reviewed and implemented the most secure policies over the next 90 days. I have tremendous feeling for the people involved in this horrific humanitarian crisis in Syria. 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.”
• Mayor Rahm Emanuel invoked the anti-Jewish pogroms of Eastern Europe — which spurred his grandfather to come to the United States — as he announced that his family will be hosting a meal for “DREAMers.” He urged others in the city to do the same.
“At a moment of unease and vulnerability for so many, let’s come together as a city and put action behind our words and the values we hold dear as a welcoming city,” Emanuel said. “Let’s show the world that the City of Big Shoulders is also a city of big hearts.”
• Rauner’s staff said in a statement that the United States should balance its tradition of welcoming immigrants with its national security concerns. But they said “he’s opposed to immigration bans that target any specific religion.”
“Serious concerns about the executive order have been raised,” Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said. “We urge swift resolution of these concerns through the courts to ensure we are a nation that is both secure and welcoming of immigrants and refugees.”
The governor also spoke of the need to strike a balance in November 2015, when he decided to “temporarily suspend accepting new Syrian refugees and consider all of our legal options pending a full review of our country’s acceptance and security processes by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.” The move came in the wake of a terrorist attack in Paris.
• One of the most scathing attacks on Trump’s order came from Cupich, who warned that “the world is watching as we abandon our commitments to American values.”
“These actions give aid and comfort to those who would destroy our way of life,” Cupich said. “They lower our estimation in the eyes of the many peoples who want to know America as a defender of human rights and religious liberty, not a nation that targets religious populations and then shuts its doors on them.”
• Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., appeared on FOX News Sunday and at an immigrant rights event at Sullivan High School.
“The refugee program is the most carefully vetted program in our government,” Durbin said, a reference to the multiple layers of scrutiny the Obama administration imposed on refugees, especially from Syria.
“Well, I can tell you what’s going on here is that he has established a target of refugees, and I don’t think that is our vulnerability. If you want to make America safe, the refugee program is the most carefully vetted program in our government,” Durbin said.
• U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky joined Durbin, the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. and others Sunday at Sullivan High School in the 6600 block of North Bosworth for the ‘Know Your Rights’ event, aimed at Syrian and Iraqi immigrants and refugees. Schakowsky’s “shame on President Donald Trump” comment drew cheers from the crowd.
So did the Democratic congresswoman’s promise that, if the Trump White House aims to establish a national registry of religions — or simply a Muslim registry — “we will all be Muslims. All of us.”
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Contributing: Tina Sfondeles