Senate Democrats on Sunday attacked President Trump’s recently imposed ban on immigration from several mostly-Muslim countries -- calling the order unconstitutional and seizing on some refugees and green card holders being detained this weekend at U.S. airports to fuel their political outrage.
“He has established a target of refugees,” Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate’s second-ranking Democrat, told “Fox News Sunday.”
Trump on Friday issued an executive order that includes a 120-day suspension of the U.S. refugee program and a 90-day ban on travel to the United States by citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.
Durbin spoke after a hectic Saturday at New York’s John. F. Kennedy International Airport and other airports across the country -- where dozens of refugees or people with green cards were detained or stopped for additional vetting.
“They just sprung this on us,” Durbin said about the executive order. “Refugees are the most carefully vetted visitors who come into this country.”
Durbin also thanked a Brooklyn judge (the first of several federal judges across the country) who late Saturday issued emergency orders to temporarily bar the administration from deporting people from the seven countries.
Top White House officials late Saturday and early Sunday rushed to defend the program and pointed out that President Obama identified the seven countries from which immigration has been banned.
“These are countries that have a history of training, harboring, exporting terrorists,” Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, said twice on “Fox News Sunday.”
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that 75 to 80 percent of Americans agree with the policy change, amid terror attacks in the United States and elsewhere around the world in which the perpetrators have been linked to such countries.
“We don't want people that are traveling back and forth to one of these seven countries that harbor terrorists to be traveling freely back and forth between the United States and those countries,” Priebus said.
Hours after Durbin spoke, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, at a press conference, vowed to fight the executive order “with every fiber of my being.”
The New York lawmaker also argued that Trump’s order was “unconstitutional” and vowed Senate Democrats would try, in the GOP-controlled Congress, to reverse the order.
“Mr. President, I’m here to tell you that I will fight this,” said Schumer, who sniffled back tears as he stood alongside several children and adult immigrants impacted by the ban.
Trump also faces public opposition from at least a handful of congressional Republicans including Sens. Jeff Flake, of Arizona; Ben Sasse, of Nebraska, and Rob Portman, of Ohio.
"This was an extreme vetting program that wasn't properly vetted," Portman said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."