Refugee disarray

Trump makes national policy into local affair

ACLU of Nevada spokesperson Holly Welborn took a hard line against Trump anti-refugee orders.

ACLU of Nevada spokesperson Holly Welborn took a hard line against Trump anti-refugee orders.

“We are involved in these issues for a variety of reasons,” J.S. Klippenstein said in a small gymnasium at Sparks Christian Fellowship. “Probably the most important—our faith compels us. … Jesus Christ began his work on this planet as a refugee.”

Klippenstein is a neatly dressed, optimistic, clean cut looking youth, one of several spokespeople at a news conference called Jan. 25 after Donald Trump issued executive orders providing for a sweeping crackdown on illegal immigration—“to prevent further illegal immigration into the United States, and to repatriate [deport] illegal aliens swiftly, consistently, and humanely”—and construction of a wall along the Mexican border. At the same time, the White House said more orders were being prepared curbing legal immigration, barring Syrian refugees from entering the United States, and restricting immigration from certain Muslim-majority countries.

In addition, Trump was expected to propose a program for local and state law enforcement agencies to arrest and detain illegal immigrants with criminal records as a step toward deportation and to reinstate a program in which unconvicted arrestees’ fingerprints are submitted to criminal and immigration databases to facilitate deportation. Entry into the United States by Syrian refugees would be stopped indefinitely, and all refugees from all nations would be barred for four months.

Besides Klippenstein at the Sparks event, there were Sherif Elfass of the Northern Nevada Muslim Community, Carina Black of International Center of Northern Nevada, Rabbi Ethan Bair of Temple Sinai, Holly Welborn of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, Michael Thornton of Acting in Community Together in Organizing Northern Nevada and a crowd of local residents upset by the Trump actions.

“The ACLU will fight with the full firepower of our litigators, activists and policy specialists in every state, to defeat these dangerous, un-American polices,” Welborn said.

In Reno, one attorney specializing in immigration law said his phones have been ringing steadily.

The International Center of Northern Nevada had arranged for local families to take in up to 100 refugees, some of whom have already arrived, others who are on their way and expected to face interruption in their passage. At any rate, the number accepted locally will probably be well below 100.

On subsequent days after Trump’s orders were issued, airports in the U.S. and elsewhere were the scene of standings and protests. U.S. troops were angered at their often heroic interpreters being barred from the U.S., and members of Congress in both parties found fault with the way the orders were drafted. Republicans Mitch McConnell and Dean Heller both distinguished between improved vetting of refugees and blocking members of specific religions.

In a statement released in several consecutive tweets, Heller said, “I share the president’s desire to protect our nation from harm. I agree that better vetting and border protection measures are necessary. That’s why I support the thorough vetting of individuals entering our country. However, I am deeply troubled by the appearance of [a] religious ban. The use of an overly broad executive order is not the way to strengthen national security. I encourage the administration to partner with Congress to find a solution.”

Nevada’s other U.S. senator, Catherine Cortez Masto, said she is cosponsoring legislation to void Trump’s actions.

Up in the air

Courts overturned various parts of the Trump orders, only to have executive agencies disobey the court orders.

Some of the confusion seemed to stem from the way the orders were written, which some observers called “amateurish,” particularly when it became known that Trump himself was pressuring the National Park Service to release photos that made his inaugural ceremonies look larger.

“Big companies notice when administrations seem this amateurish,” Horizon Investments executive Greg Valliere told Politico. An Australian columnist said that nation’s government “feels its way forward with the unpredictable, amateurish presidency of Donald Trump.”

Klippenstein deals with several Syrian families and one Congolese family already established in the Truckee Meadows. He said the impact of Trump’s orders rattled them.

“I would say it was difficult for them—confusing and frightening,” he said. “Luckily, most of the volunteers have surrounded the families and comforted them. Right now, they are just up in the air and dealing with it, waiting for the other shoe to drop.” He said there has been some pushback against the refugees within the church from a few people, but the “overwhelming response has been positive.”

Thornton said later members of his group will travel to Modesto this month to meet with grassroots organizers and religious leaders to exchange information on effective techniques “to push for workers rights, housing, and environmental justice, as well as deepen relationships among these organizatioins and the faith community.”

PICO National Network—reportedly the largest network of faith-based organizing groups—will be a part of the gathering. So things are just beginning.