Trump US immigration ban triggers global backlash

Bryan R. Smith / AFP | Protesters gather in Battery Park and march to the offices of Customs and Border Patrol in Manhattan to protest President Trump's Executive order imposing controls on travellers from seven countries, January 29, 2017, in New York.

US President Donald Trump faced a growing international backlash Monday as foreign nations, including key US allies, and chiefs of industry denounced his immigration order.


Taking a swipe at diplomats who signed a letter protesting the ban, White House spokesmen Sean Spicer said the document was "blown way out of proportion and exaggerated," adding, "I think they should either get with the program or they can go."

Iraq’s parliament voted Monday to “retaliate” if the US refused to reverse its decision a move that prompted its foreign ministry to issue a statement asking that the “new American administration reconsider this wrong decision”.

Noting their cooperation in fighting the Islamic State group, the statement added: “We affirm Iraq’s desire to strengthen the strategic partnership between the two countries.”

Hassan Shwairid, the deputy head of the foreign affairs committee, said that the call to respond in kind to the US measure did not apply to the thousands of American military personnel in the country who are there as part of the US-led coalition against IS.

However, US Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham said that Trump's ban would impact on military cooperation and security in other ways.

"This executive order bans Iraqi pilots from coming to military bases in Arizona to fight our common enemies," the two lawmakers said in a joint statement.

"Ultimately, we fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism," they said.

By executive order on Friday, President Donald Trump banned US entry for people from seven Muslim-majority countries – Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen – and temporarily halted the admission of refugees.

Trump said the ban was needed to make America safe from “radical Islamic terrorists".

The travel restrictions, which come on the heels of repeated assertions by Trump that the US should have stolen Iraq's oil before leaving in 2011, risk alienating the citizens and government of a country fighting against militants the president has cast as a major threat to America.

Trump's decision led to the detention of incoming refugees at US airports, sparking protests, legal challenges and widespread condemnation from rights groups. The president's critics said his action unfairly singled out Muslims, violated US law and the Constitution, and defiled America's historic reputation as a welcoming place for immigrants.

Concerns over the ban were also mounting from among traditional allies like Germany and the UK.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson described Trump's travel ban as "highly controversial”, as tens of thousands of people protested in cities across Britain.

For British Prime Minister Theresa May the ban has likely soured attempts to show that post-Brexit vote Britain can have a "special relationship" with the world's superpower.

Obama 'heartened' by protests

Hitting out at his successor, former president Barack Obama said in a statement that he “disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion”.

The statement added that the former president is "heartened" by protests that have taken place across the country.

"Citizens exercising their constitutional right to assemble, organize and have their voices heard by their elected officials is exactly what we expect to see when American values are at stake," the statement said.

The leader of the Democrats in the US Senate, Chuck Schumer, said he would bring legislation on Monday evening seeking to end the ban, although the measure stood little chance of being passed by the Republican-led Congress.

"We should repeal this, and then we should sit down in a careful, thoughtful way to figure out ways we need to tighten up things against terrorism," the senior New York senator told NBC News, noting that some Republican lawmakers also had spoken out against Trump's action.

Democrats in the House of Representatives sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly seeking an urgent meeting to discuss the order, which they said "belies our proud heritage as a nation of tolerance", Politico reported.

Chiefs of industry weigh in

The chief executives of Goldman Sachs Group and Ford Motor Company joined the criticism of the travel ban as equity markets fell and the dollar slipped on Monday.

"This is not a policy we support, and I would note that it has already been challenged in federal court, and some of the order has been enjoined at least temporarily," Goldman Sachs Group Inc Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein said in a voicemail to employees on Sunday.

If the temporary freeze became permanent, he said, it could create "disruption" for the bank and its staff, according to a transcript seen by Reuters.

Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. and Chief Executive Mark Fields said in a statement to employees that the company does not support what it called a new US travel ban.

"We do not support this policy or any other that goes against our values as a company," they said, adding that Ford is not aware of any employees directly affected by the policy.

General Motors's head of human resources told employees in a memo that a few GM employees are from countries affected by the travel order, and added, "at General Motors, we value and respect individual differences".

Trump has focused on the auto industry to promote more manufacturing jobs in industrial states that were critical to his electoral college victory.

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk asked followers to read the immigration order and propose "specific amendments". He said he would seek a consensus among members of a business advisory council that is expected to meet with President Trump this week.

In a response to a comment on his Twitter feed, Musk wrote, "There is no possibility of retraction, but there is possibility of modification..."

Starbucks Corp Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz took a different approach to the travel ban, saying on Sunday that the coffee shop chain planned to hire 10,000 refugees over five years in 75 countries.

The US Chamber of Commerce said the policy is creating confusion for companies with employees who are legal residents or dual nationals.

A Chamber spokesperson told AFP "we hope the administration can quickly clarify how these will be handled".


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