Pennsylvania leaders denounce Trump ban on immigration
After dozens of people were detained at American airports over the weekend following President Donald Trump’s travel ban, chaos and confusion gave way to numerous protests and criticism from many of Pennsylvania’s top officials.
Trump signed an executive order Friday banning travelers from seven predominantly Muslim nations — Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen — from entering the United States and suspending the U.S. refugee program for four months. An unknown number of people were denied entry and detained over the weekend, and many were sent out of the country on return flights.
On Saturday, a federal judge in New York issued an order temporarily blocking the government from deporting people with valid visas who arrived after Trump’s travel ban took effect, and federal courts in Virginia, Massachusetts and Washington state followed suit.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., were at the Philadelphia International Airport on Saturday night, joining those protesting the detainment of two Syrian families who arrived from Qatar to resettle in Allentown after a 13-year effort to obtain their visas.
By Sunday, the families were back in Damascus, Syria, following 18-hour return flights after being denied entry by federal agents in Philadelphia.
“As a Pennsylvanian and as an American, this is not who we are,” Wolf said in Philadelphia on Sunday, flanked by relatives of the Syrian families. “Pennsylvania is a place of welcome. The United States was set up to be a place where people could escape oppression. This is not a place the people come to to experience oppression.”
Wolf said he is outraged by Trump’s executive actions and believes the president “didn’t think this through.”
'Welcoming city': Trump’s executive order came less than a week after York City Mayor Kim Bracey signed an executive order of her own declaring York City a “welcoming city” for immigrants.
Bracey reiterated the city’s relationship with its immigrant community Sunday, but she admitted she’s also trying to figure what is going on at the federal level.
“York remains a welcoming community,” Bracey said. “I want our residents of York to know that this is a safe and welcoming place, and we’re here for them.”
The York County Prison houses nearly 800 immigration detainees for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The county receives almost half of its annual prison budget — about $25 million — from federal funding, York County Commissioner Chris Reilly said last week.
In a statement Friday, Casey condemned Trump’s executive order as being “contrary to our values and our security,” as it means the U.S. will have to turn away Syrian children fleeing bombings, Sudanese and Somalian women and girls fleeing human-rights violations, and Iraqis “who risked their lives to work with our troops.”
“Preventing these vulnerable people from resettling in the U.S. as refugees does nothing to make our nation safer,” Casey said.
The executive action “appears to be driven by politics and discrimination,” and refugee applicants are already subject to the highest level of security checks of any travelers to the U.S., Casey said.
Prosecutors: Josh Shapiro, the state’s new attorney general, joined forces with the top prosecutors from 16 other states Sunday to question the legality and constitutionality of Trump’s executive order.
In a joint statement, the attorneys general said they are confident Trump’s executive order will be overturned by the court system, and the group “will use all the tools of our offices” to ensure America’s national security and core values.
“As the chief legal officers for over 130 million Americans and foreign residents of our states, we condemn President Trump’s unconstitutional, un-American and unlawful executive order and will work together to ensure the federal government obeys the Constitution, respects our history as a nation of immigrants and does not unlawfully target anyone because of their national origin or faith,” the statement reads. “Religious liberty has been and always will be a bedrock principle of our country, and no president can change that truth.”
U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-Dillsburg, noted that other presidents have banned refugees from select countries, with President Barack Obama banning many Iraqi refugees in 2011 and President Jimmy Carter banning Iranians from entering the country during the Iranian hostage crisis that ran from November 1979 to January 1981.
The Trump administration "must clarify its policies and remove any confusion" over those who legally hold green cards, Perry said.
Perry said he wants the United States' "proud tradition" of having a culturally diverse and open country to continue but warned of terrorists trying to enter the country by hiding among refugees.
"The primary duty of government is to keep the American people safe," Perry said in a statement Sunday night. "We must take commonsense steps to protect ourselves from those who take advantage of our generosity to commit acts of terrorism."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.