By Jacob Marrocco and John Howell
Mayor Allan Fung expressed his “concern” about President Donald Trump’s latest executive order on Sunday night, releasing a statement that said the ban could have “unintended consequences.”
Meanwhile, differing points of view on the executive order have come from a cross section of the community with some religious as well as political leaders defending the president.
President Trump signed into effect on Saturday a ban that barred the entry of people from seven countries – Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen – for at least the next 90 days. No one from those seven countries has committed a deadly terrorist attack in the United States since 9/11, according to Politifact.
The order immediately drew the ire of thousands across the country, ranging from Dallas to Boston to Boise, as they took to the airports to protest those being held by border patrol.
Despite Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s assertion that only 109 people were stopped for “additional screening,” the Washington Post offered otherwise. Only a few hundred have been detained, but the Post’s Glenn Kessler wrote Monday that more than 90,000 people overall were affected by the ban.
“It appears as though this executive order was rolled out quickly, far too quickly in opinion, and did not go through the proper vetting,” Fung said in his statement. “While I wholeheartedly support sensible reforms, and think we need to strengthen our borders greatly, immigration and national security are complex problems that should not be rushed.”
That sentiment is felt to a much stronger degree by some protestors around the city. Nancy Rafi, organizer for the Rhode Island branch of the Women’s March on Washington, was struck nearly speechless when asked Monday night about the ban.
“I can’t even go there,” said Rafi, who was protesting against Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions outside of Sen. Jack Reed’s office in Cranston, said. “The thing is, I think people are shocked. You have choices when you’re shocked: You either sit at home and stare out into the abyss and say I have no idea what to do, or you get your feet on the ground and you go out and join others to get their voices heard. Now is the time to act.”
Father Robert Marciano, pastor of St. Kevin Church in Warwick and not surprisingly former Warwick Representative Joseph Trillo, who headed the Rhode Island Trump campaign, offered differing views.
Father Marciano, who as a National Guard chaplain, responded to the Pentagon immediately following the 9-11 attacks where he saw the carnage and assisted with the recovery of bodies, said, “They’re making such a big deal over this and I read they only detained 100 people.”
“He [Trump] means business about protecting Americans first,” said Father Marciano. Father Marciano said the American way of open doors and unrestricted freedoms changed with 9/11.
“There are those who do not agree with our way of life,” he said. Father Marciano defends our freedoms, but observed they also make the country “vulnerable.”
While Father Marciano is surprised by reports that President Trump did not consult with some of his key advisors prior to his executive order, he does not see it coming as a surprise.
“He said he was going to do this.”
Trillo offers the same reasoning. He sees the order as a message to the world, and especially to ISIS that this country is not going to tolerate terrorists. He called it a “shock wave” that makes the American position clear.
As for the dismissal of acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who questioned the legality of Trump’s refugee and immigration ban, Trillo said, “Trump had no choice.”
“You always have to look between the lines in politics,” said Trillo. In this case, Trillo reasons, Yates knew she would not be staying with the administration.
“It was her way of making a statement on her way out the door.”
In a statement, Congressman James Langevin applauded Yates for “upholding the ‘solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right.”
“I am vehemently opposed to this Executive Order, and especially so because once again President Trump has taken unilateral action without seeking input from the experienced, expert advisers he now has at his disposal,” Langevin said.
Mayor Scott Avedisian, a Republican who did not support Trump in the party primary took issue with the President’s use of an executive order.
“I have never favored using executive orders as a way to legislate issues. I have used them for general housekeeping issues, lowering flags, imposing states of emergency, etc. But more substantive issues should be dealt with through legislation,” he said.
Trillo thinks it important people recognize that President Trump uses hyperbole to make his point and that they often fail to understand where he is coming from.
“If you take him literally,” he said, “he’s going to really mess with your head. There’s a meaning with everything he says.”
Trillo likewise observed that about 100 people were detained under the executive order.
Referring to Trump’s brief tenure in office, Trillo said, “I’m very impressed by what he’s been able to do…the game of Washington, D.C. politics is over.”
“Give him a chance. No one gives him a chance, especially the left hand liberals.”
Rev. Chris Abhulime, pastor of the King’s Tabernacle in Johnston said he recognizes the president has powers to restrict entry into the country, adding, “But I also feel that it should be done in a manner that respects religious values, that is not targeting religion instead of people.”
“We want to keep people safe, we want to keep the country safe and we want to do it in an orderly fashion where it doesn’t create chaos,” he said.
However, Pastor Abhulime has concerns with what is being seen as a ban on Muslims.
“There’s a perception that the Muslim community is targeted with this immigration rollout. For me, because I’ve experienced it, and I feel so terrible that our Muslim brothers and sisters have to go through the type of pain that we had to go through. Nobody should ever have to go through that, even the perception of it. I think the government should understand that they are not just the government for some of the people, they’re government for all of the people regardless of nationality, creed, religion or where you’re from or how you look like. We should be treated equal.”
In an email Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea asked her supporters to stay engaged.
“All our voices need to be heard,” she wrote. She ended the email by saying Republicans were gearing up to challenge her re-election next year and asked for donations to “help me fight for our values and prepare for the challenge ahead.”
Governor Gina Raimondo, who has been consistently trying to convey that Rhode Island is inclusive.
In comments made Sunday at a protest rally at the State House she said, “President Trump, we’re not going to back down. President Trump, we will not be quiet. And President Trump, the people of Rhode Island stand strong against your religious test and against your Muslim ban.”
“We will unite against this because it is wrong, and we will stand for human rights, together. People of Rhode Island, we are counting on one another. Dig deep, and know that I’m standing with you.”
(With reports from Tim Forsberg and Tessa Roy)
By Jacob Marrocco and John Howell