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Trump's executive orders on immigration drawing fire locally

Eileen Elibol

With Congress and the government re-opening in Washington today, there may be some clarity about immigration which has been tangled all weekend.

President Trump clamped down in immigration from some countries and especially on Muslims, with details unclear in the executive order. That led to a flurry of court orders limiting enforcement and statements from the administration as to what was and what wasn't intended and to whom.

Opponents say some travelers were sent back despite the court order. The executive order drew a blast from Senator Charles Schumer.
"Mean-spirited and un-American," he said. "It was implemented in a way that created chaos and confusion across the country and it will only serve to embolden and inspire those around the globe who will do us harm. It must be reversed immediately."

Senate Democratic Leader Schumer said members of his party will do their best to pass legislation reversing the order. He said it is probably unconstitutional.

Trump supporter Republican Congressman Chris Collins has a lot of problems with Schumer and backs the executive order. Collins attacked those who see the executive order as an attack on Muslims.

"It's not a religious thing," Collins said. "I get a little frustrated with the folks who don't like Trump trying to make something into something it's not. So I'm just disappointed that we can't have a true and honest debate without someone inflaming the situation and claiming there's religious overtones."

The Trump order would give preference to Christian immigrants over Muslim immigrants when the system starts up again.

Republican Congressman Tom Reed, vice chair of Trumps' transition team, also backed the order, saying "it does not ban Muslims from immigrating or traveling to the United States" and it "will not restrict those with Green Cards from traveling to the United States."

University at Buffalo Law School Professor Rick Su said he will have Muslim students in class Monday and he is expecting questions about what the executive order means and what it might portend for the future.

"Once this, if this does become normalized in all sorts of policymaking, whether it's immigration or in national security or in policing or everything else, that designating certain religions is going to be permissible," Su said.

Su said there is a conflict between the restrictions in the order and the First Amendment barring government action on religion.

SUNY Board Chairman H. Carl McCall and Chancellor Nancy Zimpher issued a joint statement on the matter:

"The State University of New York enrolls approximately 22,140 international students from 180 countries, including 320 students from the seven countries affected by the current ban on travel. SUNY is reviewing President Trump's Executive Order and surveying its campuses to determine the impact it may have on our students, faculty and staff both abroad and at home on our 64 college and university campuses.

"As always, our commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion are unwavering. Our founding principles and support for undocumented students, restated by the SUNY Board of Trustees at its meeting last week, continue to guide our actions as we review and react to new federal mandates with regard to immigration.

"SUNY leadership and university police will do all we can, within the law, to support any students, faculty, and staff affected by the Executive Order. In the meantime, we recommend suspending travel plans to the countries included and urge individuals affected to keep in contact with their campus Office of International Student and Scholar Services.

"SUNY has established a website to provide students and families with current resources as well as additional information as it becomes available."

Also over the weekend, Ontario's immigration minister reaffirmed the province's openness to accepting refugees, regardless of where they are from. Laura Albanese issued a statement as the U.S. imposed a travel ban on people from seven Muslim majority countries.

Albanese said since 2015, Ontario has taken in about 20,000 refugees, including more than 16,000 from Syria.
She added that Ontario communities have embraced the newcomers.

Credit WNY Peace Center

Sunday afternoon, there was another protestdowntown in support of opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline, who were hit with a different executive order from the president removing restrictions on construction. Western New York Peace Center Executive Director Vicki Ross says opponents of the pipeline in Indian Country support immigrants.
"We certainly were remembering our refugee brothers and sisters and it's particularly moving to me that their human rights were set up, were at this rally as well as water issues," Ross said.

The protestors rallied in Niagara Square, marched to Canalside and then returned.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.