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Trump’s ban of refugees ignites firestorm, but also gains support

31 Jan 2017 – By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — As President Donald Trump signed an executive memorandum intended to restrict the entry of terrorists coming to the United States in the guise of refugees, the action brought quick response from Catholic and other religious leaders.

The largest response came from more than 2,000 religious leaders representing the Interfaith Immigration Coalition who objected to the action in a letter to the president and members of Congress. The heads of Catholic charitable agencies, organizations working with immigrants and Catholic education leaders also decried the president’s action.

The action also drew supporters, with organizations such as the Heritage Foundation and some church leaders saying it was necessary to protect the country’s security.

Trump signed the memorandum, titled “The Protection of the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” during a Jan. 27 ceremony at the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes as new Secretary of Defense James Mattis was sworn in. The president also signed a second executive action designed to build the strength of the U.S. military.

Regarding the refugee action, Trump said it was meant to keep “Islamic terrorists out of the United States. We don’t want ‘em here. We want to make sure they don’t enter the country.” He added, “The only ones we want to admit into our country are those who will support our county and deeply love our people. We will never forget the lessons of 9/11.”

The memorandum suspends the entire U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days and bans entry of all citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries — Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia — for 90 days. It also establishes a religious criteria for refugees, proposing to give priority to religious minorities over others who may have equally compelling refugee claims.

The seven countries previously were identified under guidelines established in the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015. The act includes a provision that allows the Department of Homeland Security’s to limit Visa Waiver Program travel for certain individuals who have traveled to the seven countries.

The religious leaders’ letter said the U.S. has an “urgent moral responsibility to receive refugees and asylum seekers who are in dire need of safety.” The correspondence called on elected officials to "be bold in choosing moral, just policies that provide refuge for vulnerable individuals seeking protection."

The leaders also insisted that the U.S. refugee resettlement program remain open to all nationalities and religions that face persecution. They decried “derogatory language” about Middle Eastern refugees and Muslims in particular, adding that refugees “are an asset to this country,” serving as “powerful ambassadors of the American dream and our nation’s founding principles of equal opportunity, religious freedom and liberty and justice for all.”

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