Executive order banning U.S. entry sows fear in Kitsap

BREMERTON — President Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order suspended entry into the United States to people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — majority Muslim countries.

The move sparked protests worldwide, as well as concerns locally that the ban will separate immigrants here from family members in those countries and close the door on people fleeing violence.

Martitha May, executive director of the Kitsap Immigrant Assistance Center, said she’s been receiving a lot of questions and concerns from immigrant residents of Kitsap.

People “now live in fear,” May said. “We’ve received tons of phone calls. People who already know us, they stop me and ask. There’s a lot of fear out there.”

North Kitsap School District Superintendent Patty Page emailed parents on Jan. 31, assuring them “that our schools always have been and will continue to be a safe place for our students … North Kitsap School District is deeply committed to supporting all of our students and their families, regardless of national origin, religion or immigration status.”

Page wrote that public education is a constitutional right that can’t be taken away by the president, the state or federal legislators, and that the district does not ask for the immigration status of any student.

“North Kitsap School District is a place that supports all students and families,” Page wrote. “We are committed to our mission of providing an academically challenging educational program to meet the diverse needs of all students in a safe, nurturing environment that empowers them to be competent, creative, compassionate and contributing citizens.”

One Kitsap resident wrote Bremerton Patriot and Central Kitsap Reporter on social media: “Trump’s press secretary is saying that it’s not a Muslim ‘ban,’ but Trump himself used the word. The administration is playing word games, completely insensitive to the disruption they are causing to many families — including those who hold green cards and are legally permitted to be in the U.S.

“Trump’s discriminatory executive order takes our country closer to internment camps. It is abhorrent what he’s doing and that Republicans are allowing him to get away with it. He says that he enacted it to keep Americans ‘safe,’ yet the country where the 9/11 terrorists (came) from, Saudi Arabia, was not among the countries named. Why is that? Could it be that he wants to put a Trump Hotel over there?

“The world and history will not judge America kindly during this time. Our international statue is slipping, regardless of what Trump or his minions say.”

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, wrote on her Twitter account (@PattyMurray) Jan. 28 that Trump’s order “has slammed the door on thousands of people — many of whom are women and children fleeing horrific violence. So much of what makes America great is our diversity. I urge this administration to work to further our national security, not merely target individuals based on their religion or nationality. Chaos and confusion at U.S. airports is heartbreaking. We should be a country welcoming those in need, not turning away.”

Murray added, “There are moments in history we look back on and wonder why more didn’t stand up and fight. Let’s make sure this moment is written differently.”

Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Washington, said, “We must keep Americans safe and secure, which is why we have a rigorous process for evaluating men, women and children fleeing violence and seeking asylum in America.

“By rushing through an executive order without input from those who would be responsible for enforcing it, President Trump kept families from being reunited, left interpreters who fought alongside Americans in limbo and even prevented an Iraqi General helping us fight ISIL terrorists from visiting his family here in the U.S.,” he said. “This blanket ban on Muslim countries also makes it harder to succeed against extremists who can use it as a recruiting tool. We are going to remain vigilant and strike back against ISIL and other networks that would do us harm. But we must do it in a way that reflects our values and keeps America as a beacon of freedom for the world.”

On Jan. 31, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate key provisions of Trump’s executive order on immigration. The ACLU is collecting signatures for a petition in support of the lawsuit (action.aclu.org/secure/thank_bob_ferguson to sign).

Trump’s order took effect immediately. People on planes bound for the U.S. were detained upon arrival. People with valid visas, green cards or permanent-resident status were refused entry, and some were put on a return flight to their country of origin. Some received waivers and were allowed entry into the U.S.

Trump said his executive order is designed to protect the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States.

“In order to protect Americans, the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles. The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law. In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including ‘honor’ killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.”

On Jan. 29, Trump released the following statement: “America is a proud nation of immigrants and we will continue to show compassion to those fleeing oppression, but we will do so while protecting our own citizens and border. America has always been the land of the free and home of the brave. We will keep it free and keep it safe, as the media knows but refuses to say …

“We will again be issuing visas to all countries once we are sure we have reviewed and implemented the most secure policies over the next 90 days. I have tremendous feeling for the people involved in this horrific humanitarian crisis in Syria. My first priority will always be to protect and serve our country, but as President I will find ways to help all those who are suffering.”

The ACLU is assisting people who have not heard from visitors scheduled to arrive at a Washington airport from one of the seven countries listed in the executive order. Email travel@aclu-wa.org. Include contact information and details about the visitor, including name, date of birth, country of citizenship, form of visa or entry authorization, date and time of arrival, flight number and airline.

If you are a Kitsap County resident with immigrant status and you have questions, contact the Kitsap Immigration Assistance Center at 360-440-2376 or visit www.kitsapiac.org.

Michelle Beahm is a reporter with the Central Kitsap Reporter and Bremerton Patriot. She can be reached at mbeahm@soundpublishing.com.