Part of a gathering movement in San Antonio, Texas, and reflective of actions taking place across the country and around the world, a group of roughly 40 area residents occupied San Antonio International Airport on Sunday, January 29, 2017, to oppose the recent Trump Executive Order on visas and refugees. Trump’s action shut the border to citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days, suspended all refugee admission for 120 days, and indefinitely blocked any Syrian refugees from entering the United States.
Sunday evening’s action followed two similar events held at the airport last Saturday night and Sunday morning.
Trump’s so-called travel ban was suspended last Saturday after a federal judge appointed by George W. Bush sided with state attorneys general in the states of Washington and Minnesota claiming it represented “immediate and irreparable injury” to their states.
Protesters gathered primarily as an expression of welcome for any refugees who may be arriving in San Antonio–particularly, perhaps, if any should still be closeted by Homeland Security as they had been at other U.S. airports that weekend. In a running string of chants and songs, the group decried the Trump order as part-and-parcel of his racist election-season promises to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, enact a total ban on Muslims entering the United States, and set up a Muslim registry to intensely police members of the faith within the country.
Current estimates hold that there are about 3.3 million Muslims living in the United States, representing roughly one percent of the total population. Immigration enforcement measures being developed in the White House are believed to represent a planned deportation of 8 million in the country illegally. President Barack Obama, referred to some derisively by some activists in the immigration community as the “deporter-in-chief,” ejected more undocumented residents from the country than any preceding president—2.5 million over six years in office.
At San Antonio International Airport, protestors chanted and sung and shared stories as they publicly objected to Trump’s actions as an unconstitutional display of rule based on hatred and fear. In fact, Trump quickly walked back the most obviously illegal elements of his order, the banning of current green card holders. Wrestling with the legal challenge this week, a trio of federal judges aren’t overly impressed with the president’s assertion of authority to enact the order’s other elements unilaterally.
Pushback from the judiciary forced the release of many who had been held at several international airports, among them children, a one-time translator for U.S. military forces in Iraq, and (briefly) a former prime minister of Norway.
“We’re going to respond to people being taken, and we’re going to rapidly respond,” said John, a San Antonio resident who asked to be identified by his first name only. “We’re not going to just sit idly by.”
Speaking to the group on Sunday night, San Antonio resident Judith Norman said: “I had relatives trying to flee Nazi Germany in the 1930s from Poland. But the U.S. had shut its borders to Jews and they were all killed in the death camps. So there’s historical parallel. We know it’s shameful.”
One weak positive in this assault out of the White House comes as a result of Trump’s own impulsiveness, inflated sense of self-importance, and secrecy, as writes legal scholar Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution. The failure to vet the language of the order with (apparently) any legal teams much less anyone with Homeland Security, Justice, the DoD, Custos, Immigration Services, or the (already gutted) State Department make it extraordinarily vulnerable to legal challenge.
No radical liberal himself, Wittes admits to embracing all of the U.S. federal security responses put into place since 9/11.
Until this one.
He writes at Lawfare:
The malevolence of President Trump’s Executive Order on visas and refugees is mitigated chiefly—and perhaps only—by the astonishing incompetence of its drafting and construction.
NBC is reporting that the document was not reviewed by DHS, the Justice Department, the State Department, or the Department of Defense, and that National Security Council lawyers were prevented from evaluating it. Moreover, the New York Times writes that Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, the agencies tasked with carrying out the policy, were only given a briefing call while Trump was actually signing the order itself. Yesterday, the Department of Justice gave a “no comment” when asked whether the Office of Legal Counsel had reviewed Trump’s executive orders—including the order at hand. (OLC normally reviews every executive order.)
This order reads to me, frankly, as though it was not reviewed by competent counsel at all.
Put simply, I don’t believe that the stated purpose is the real purpose. This is the first policy the United States has adopted in the post-9/11 era about which I have ever said this. It’s a grave charge, I know, and I’m not making it lightly. But in the rational pursuit of security objectives, you don’t marginalize your expert security agencies and fail to vet your ideas through a normal interagency process. You don’t target the wrong people in nutty ways when you’re rationally pursuing real security objectives.
When do you do these things? You do these things when you’re elevating the symbolic politics of bashing Islam over any actual security interest. You do them when you’ve made a deliberate decision to burden human lives to make a public point. In other words, this is not a document that will cause hardship and misery because of regrettable incidental impacts on people injured in the pursuit of a public good. It will cause hardship and misery for tens or hundreds of thousands of people because that is precisely what it is intended to do.
So, Trump is being intentionally and rabidly punitive to display his power. That sort of behavior was exhibited across the campaign trail. But is that all that’s happening?
If you want to get a solid chill regarding the Grand Duplicity taking place, consider this warning.
Assessing a mere 24 hours of the Trump disaster, Yonatan Zunger at Medium determines the contest now set before the American people is nothing less than a trial balloon lifted to test the waters for a possible full-on coup d’état.
Note also the most frightening escalation last night was that the DHS made it fairly clear that they did not feel bound to obey any court orders. CBP continued to deny all access to counsel, detain people, and deport them in direct contravention to the court’s order, citing “upper management,” and the DHS made a formal (but confusing) statement that they would continue to follow the President’s orders. (See my updates from yesterday, and the various links there, for details) Significant in today’s updates is any lack of suggestion that the courts’ authority played a role in the decision.
That is to say, the administration is testing the extent to which the DHS (and other executive agencies) can act and ignore orders from the other branches of government. This is as serious as it can possibly get: all of the arguments about whether order X or Y is unconstitutional mean nothing if elements of the government are executing them and the courts are being ignored.
Yesterday was the trial balloon for a coup d’état against the United States. It gave them useful information.
It is critical that trial balloon go the way of the Hindenburg—and fast.
This story was updated February 9, 2017.