Attorney General Jeff Sessions expressed skepticism that a federal judge who serves in Hawaii had the power to block President Donald Trump’s retooled travel ban, which has been stuck in the courts since last month.
“I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power,” Sessions told “The Mark Levin Show,” a conservative talk show, earlier this week, according to a report by CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski.
The night Watson issued his ruling, Trump complained to a booing audience in Tennessee that the judge’s ruling was “flawed” and that it “makes us look weak.” Watson has reportedly been the subject of threats for ruling against the president’s executive order, which would limit travel to the U.S. from six Muslim-majority countries and halt refugee resettlement programs.
The two senators from Hawaii, both Democrats, reacted strongly to Sessions’ comment. Sen. Mazie Hirono likened his remarks about Watson to “dog whistle politics.”
In a statement later Thursday, Hirono, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee that vets and confirms federal judges, called Sessions’ suggestion that Watson is somehow unable to carry out his duties impartially “dangerous, ignorant, and prejudiced.”
“I am frankly dumbfounded that our nation’s top lawyer would attack our independent judiciary,” she said. “But we shouldn’t be surprised. This is just the latest in the Trump Administration’s attacks against the very tenets of our Constitution and democracy.”
Hawaii’s attorney general, Doug Chin, whose state led the charge against the second travel ban in federal court, blasted Sessions over his apparent disregard for the separation of powers.
“Our federal courts, established under article III of the Constitution, are co-equal partners with Congress and the President,” Chin said in a statement late Thursday. “It is disappointing AG Sessions does not acknowledge that.”
A Justice Department spokesman tried to mitigate Sessions’ comments.
“Hawaii is, in fact, an island in the Pacific — a beautiful one where the Attorney General’s granddaughter was born,” Ian D. Prior said in an email to The Huffington Post on Thursday. “The point, however, is that there is a problem when a flawed opinion by a single judge can block the President’s lawful exercise of authority to keep the entire country safe.”
Trump’s swipes against the federal judiciary since taking office have alarmed court watchers and the public. Even Justice Neil Gorsuch faced a tough round of grilling in confirmation hearings last month from senators asking about the president’s outbursts. The then-nominee declined to call Trump out by name, saying that he couldn’t get into politics.
HONOLULU — Attorneys representing Hawaii in the state’s challenge to US President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban for citizens of six Muslim-majority countries are asking that the full panel of a federal appeals court hear the case.
The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear the case May 15.
Hawaii’s request filed Tuesday notes that the full 15-judge panel of another federal appeals court will hear a similar case challenging the travel ban.
Appeals are typically heard first by a three-judge panel before they are possibly examined by the full panel.
Hawaii argues the case involves a “question of exceptional importance.”
The Trump administration is appealing a Hawaii federal judge’s ruling blocking the government from suspending new visas for people from six Muslim-majority countries and halting the US refugee program.
WASHINGTON (JTA) — Haim Saban, speaking at the unveiling of his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, related his immigrant story and decried the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
The Israeli-American entertainment mogul, 62, posed for photos Wednesday at the newly imprinted star, which was unveiled on the eve of the latest incarnation of his Power Rangers franchise opening this week in cinemas.
“From playing bass guitar in a covers band in Israel … to my various partnerships with media companies, investment companies, governments etc. all over the world, I’ve been extremely lucky,” Saban said at the ceremony, according to AFP, the French news service. “None of it is — was — ever taken for granted. Au contraire, I count my blessings every day for a great America.”
Saban told AFP that Trump’s temporary ban on refugees and travelers from six Muslim-majority countries left him “heartbroken.”
“It’s a very saddening thing, it’s not who we are as Americans,” said Saban, who was a major fundraiser for Hillary Clinton in her bid for the presidency last year. “We are not that.”
The Los Angeles Daily News reported that Saban jabbed at Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
“Take it from this immigrant from Israel, a proud Israeli-American, born in Egypt, a Muslim country: America is great. Not perfect, but great,” Saban said. “And we shouldn’t allow any rhetoric to make us think otherwise because America is great — period.”
Saban launched his fortune in the 1990s when he adapted a Japanese TV show for westerners, turning it into the Power Rangers.
NEW YORK – While President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban is “miles away” from its original version, it is still “not a good reflection” on the United States, immigration attorney Michael Wildes, who has represented Trump’s interests for years, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
“If we have a problem, we shouldn’t be picking on six countries to make our point, we should be doing it across the board,” he said. “Our immigration laws are very political and very selective as they are, this is not an improvement.”
Wildes, a kippa-wearing Jew and a Democrat, had worked for the Trump Models Management group and facilitated visas for Miss Universe contestants for over a decade. He was introduced to first lady Melania Trump during the presidential campaign when questions about her immigration status arose and he was asked to study her file in order to handle media inquiries.
The attorney spoke to the Post after addressing the attendees of an event held by the Manhattan Jewish Experience, a community dedicated to Jewish young adults that is headed by his brother, Rabbi Mark Wildes. The two are the sons of attorney Leon Wildes, who successfully won the deportation case for John Lennon and Yoko Ono in the 1970s.
“Shame on the Republicans and the media networks that followed suit for running scared and scaring people,” he said. “I take comfort in the fact that it’s only a temporary ban and hopefully they’ll put in place a better vetting process to make everybody safe.
“If they aren’t sincere about it, it can have greater implications,” he added.
Michael Wildes with Melania Trump (Facebook)Michael Wildes with Melania Trump
Since the first travel ban was implemented, he has worked on the cases of multiple people affected by the executive order, including that of a Sudanese surgeon whose parents, green card holders, couldn’t return to the country, and one involving an Iranian doctor whose green card was at risk.
“Our fear of ISIS, of al-Qaida should never stop us from being the world’s moral compass,” he told the audience at the event, which was held to educate young Jewish professionals on the details of the ban.
As an observant Jew, Michael Wildes added that he believes the Jewish community has a responsibility to stand up for marginalized people.
“We are historically people of the passport and we need to make sure that we get this right,” he told the Post.
“What happens to a Muslim can happen to a Jew and we have to take our responsibility to our biblical cousins very seriously.”
His rabbi brother said the travel ban is “complicated from a religious perspective.
On the one hand, the Torah tells us to pursue justice for all people and to ‘love the stranger.’ Although that phrase technically refers to someone who converts to Judaism, the spirit of that tradition encourages us to be hospitable to those coming in from the outside. Refugees certainly fall within that category,” he said.
“On the other hand, the Torah also believes in self-defense.
It is against Judaism to place oneself in a perilous or dangerous situation, and allowing in individuals who either are terrorists or are prone to becoming a danger would also be problematic,” he added.
The solution, he believes, is to improve the immigrant and refugee vetting system, but “not [to] throw the baby out with the bathwater, which this ban seems to do.”
(JTA) — Several Jewish groups praised decisions by two federal courts to block President Donald Trump’s executive order restricting immigration from six Muslim-majority countries and blocking refugees.
The Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and HIAS welcomed the Wednesday evening moves by federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland, calling the administration order discriminatory and callous. HIAS, a refugee resettlement agency formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, was among nine groups and individuals who filed the Maryland lawsuit.
The judges’ rulings blocked the order, which was to go into effect Thursday and would have stopped new visas for citizens from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days. It also banned refugees from entering the country for 120 days.
The order, which Trump signed on March 6, was a revised version of a previous order also blocked by federal judges.
Jonathan Greenblatt, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, called the Hawaii and Maryland decisions “a clear repudiation of anti-Muslim bigotry.”
“The president’s second executive order on refugees was nothing more than the first Muslim ban with new window dressing,” Greenblatt said Thursday in a statement.
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the public policy umbrella for Jewish community councils across the country, said in an email newsletter Thursday that it was “relieved” the order had been blocked.
“We believe that our long-standing policies in support of refugees, comprehensive immigration reform, and a pluralistic America are counter to both the order’s intent and direction, and we are relieved that a judge in Hawaii has placed a temporary restraining order on the revised order,” the group said.
HIAS said the “ruling will save lives.”
“While this is a temporary measure, we are pleased that the court has recognized the irreparable harm done to refugees who are prevented from finding safety in this country, as well as to their families here in the U.S. who seek to be reunited with them,” HIAS CEO Mark Hetfield said in a statement Wednesday following the Hawaii judge’s ruling.
HIAS was among a number of groups that gathered in front of the White House on Thursday to condemn the executive order. Other Jewish organizations that participated in the event were Bend the Arc Jewish Action, J Street, the National Council of Jewish Women and T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights.
Jewish groups, including the ADL, the Reform movement and HIAS, slammed the order when it was released earlier this month.
Mr. Trump even said he might reissue the initial version of the order, rather than the one blocked on Wednesday, which he described as “a watered-down version of the first one.”
After he signed the revised ban, Democratic attorneys general and nonprofit groups that work with immigrants and refugees raced back into court against Mr. Trump, alleging that his updated decree was still a thinly veiled version of the ban on Muslim migration that he had pledged to enact as a presidential candidate.
Judge Watson, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, ruled that the State of Hawaii and an individual plaintiff, Ismail Elshikh, the imam of the Muslim Association of Hawaii, had reasonable grounds to challenge the order as religious discrimination. And he concluded that allowing the travel restrictions to go into effect at midnight, as scheduled, could have caused them irreparable harm.
Judge Watson flatly rejected the government’s argument that a court would have to investigate Mr. Trump’s “veiled psyche” to deduce religious animus. He quoted extensively from the remarks by Mr. Trump that were cited in the lawsuit brought by Hawaii’s attorney general, Doug Chin.
“For instance, there is nothing ‘veiled’ about this press release,” Judge Watson wrote, quoting a Trump campaign document titled “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
Judge Watson singled out Mr. Elshikh, an American citizen whose Syrian mother-in-law had been pursuing a visa to enter the United States, as having an especially strong claim that the travel regulations would harm him on the basis of his religion.
“This is a great day for democracy, religious and human rights,” Mr. Elshikh, who was out of the country, said in a message relayed through Hakim Ouansafi, the chairman of the Muslim Association of Hawaii. “I am very pleased that the processing of my mother-in-law’s paperwork will not stop now but more importantly that this Muslim ban will not separate families and loved ones just because they happen to be from the six countries.”
Mr. Elshikh, who is Egyptian and previously worked in Michigan, was recruited to the Hawaii mosque more than a decade ago, Mr. Ouansafi said. And when the association began recruiting someone to serve as a plaintiff, the imam, who became a citizen last year, agreed to do so without reservation, Mr. Ouansafi said.
After Mr. Elshikh became the face of the lawsuit, he received several threats from the mainland, Mr. Ouansafi said. “If we lived in any other state, I would not have asked him to come forward,” he said.
In addition to the Hawaii suit, federal judges in Washington State and Maryland heard arguments in several other cases challenging the constitutionality of Mr. Trump’s order, including one brought by a coalition of Democratic attorneys general, and others from a collection of nonprofit groups. Judge Watson was the only one who ruled on Wednesday.
Administration lawyers have argued that the president was merely exercising his national security powers. In the scramble to defend the executive order, a single lawyer in the United States solicitor general’s office, Jeffrey Wall, argued first to a Maryland court and then, by phone, to Judge Watson in Honolulu that no element of the order, as written, could be construed as a religious test for travelers.
Mr. Wall said the order was based on concerns raised by the Obama administration in its move toward stricter screening of travelers from the six countries affected.
“What the order does is a step beyond what the previous administration did, but it’s on the same basis,” Mr. Wall said in the Maryland hearing.
After Mr. Trump’s speech in Nashville, the Justice Department released a more muted statement disputing the Hawaii decision, calling it “flawed both in reasoning and scope.” Sarah Isgur Flores, a spokeswoman for the department, said it would continue to defend the legality of the presidential order.
Refugee organizations and civil rights groups greeted the ruling with expressions of triumph and relief. Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, hailed the ruling on a conference call as “a strong and unequivocal rejection of the politics of hate.”
At the same time, advocates for refugees and immigrants acknowledged that significant uncertainty would hang over some of their more practical decisions, as a longer legal process plays out around Mr. Trump’s order.
“It’s a preliminary decision, but it recognizes that there continue to be problems with the constitutionality of this revised order, particularly with discriminatory intent toward Muslims,” said Betsy Fisher, policy director at the International Refugee Assistance Project at the Urban Justice Center.
The original ban, released on Jan. 27, unleashed scenes of chaos at American airports and spurred mass protests. Issued abruptly on a Friday afternoon, it temporarily barred travel from seven majority-Muslim nations, making no explicit distinction between citizens of those countries who already had green cards or visas and those who did not. It also suggested that Christian refugees from those countries would be given preference in the future.
After the federal court in Seattle issued a broad injunction against the policy, Mr. Trump removed major provisions and reissued the order. The new version exempted key groups, like green card and visa holders, and dropped the section that would have given Christians special treatment.
Mr. Trump also removed Iraq from the list of countries covered by the ban after the Pentagon expressed worry that it would damage the United States’ relationship with the Iraqi government in the fight against the Islamic State.
Yet those concessions did not placate critics of the ban, who said it would still function as an unconstitutional religious test, albeit one affecting fewer people — an argument Judge Watson concurred with in his ruling.
The lawsuits have also claimed that the order disrupts the operations of companies, charities, public universities and hospitals that have deep relationships overseas. In the Hawaii case, nearly five dozen technology companies, including Airbnb, Dropbox, Lyft and TripAdvisor, joined in a brief objecting to the travel ban.
The second, now-halted executive order preserved major components of the original. It would have ended, with few exceptions, the granting of new visas and green cards to people from six majority-Muslim countries — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — for at least 90 days. It would have also stopped all refugees from entering for 120 days and limited refugee admissions to 50,000 people in the current fiscal year.
Mr. Obama had set in motion plans to admit more than twice that number.
Mr. Trump has said the pause is needed to re-evaluate screening procedures for immigrants from the six countries. “Each of these countries is a state sponsor of terrorism, has been significantly compromised by terrorist organizations, or contains active conflict zones,” he wrote in the order.
Judge Watson’s order was not a final ruling on the constitutionality of Mr. Trump’s ban, and the administration has expressed confidence that courts will ultimately affirm Mr. Trump’s power to issue the restrictions.
But the legal debate is likely to be a protracted and unusually personal fight for the administration, touching Mr. Trump and a number of his key aides directly and raising the prospect that their public comments and private communications will be scrutinized.
The lawsuits against the ban have extensively cited Mr. Trump’s comments during the presidential campaign. Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington, who successfully challenged Mr. Trump’s first order, has indicated that in an extended legal fight, he could seek depositions from administration officials and request documents that would expose the full process by which Trump aides crafted the ban.
As a candidate, Mr. Trump first proposed to bar all Muslims from entering the United States, and then offered an alternative plan to ban travel from a number of Muslim countries, which he described as a politically acceptable way of achieving the same goal.
The lawsuits also cited Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who advises Mr. Trump. Mr. Giuliani said he had been asked to help craft a Muslim ban that would pass legal muster.
And they highlighted comments by Stephen Miller, an adviser to the president, who cast the changes to Mr. Trump’s first travel ban as mere technical adjustments aimed at ushering the same policy past the review of a court.
WASHINGTON (AFP) — US President Donald Trump’s revamped travel ban is facing its first legal setback, after a federal judge halted enforcement of the directive that would deny US entry to the wife and child of a Syrian refugee already granted asylum.
In a preliminary restraining order issued Friday that applies only to the Syrian man and his family, US District Judge William Conley in Wisconsin said the plaintiff “is at great risk of suffering irreparable harm” if the directive is carried out.
The man chose to remain anonymous because his wife and child are still living in war-wracked Aleppo.
The order marked the first ruling against the revised directive, which temporarily closes US borders to all refugees and citizens from six mainly-Muslim countries.
It denies US entry to all refugees for 120 days and halts for 90 days the granting of visas to nationals from Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Sudan.
The new order, unveiled Monday, is due to go into effect March 16. Lifting an indefinite Syrian refugee travel ban and reducing the number of blacklisted countries by removing Iraq, it replaces a previous iteration issued in January that was blocked in federal court.
“The court appreciates that there may be important differences between the original executive order and the revised executive order issued on March 6, 2017,” Conley wrote.
“As the order applies to the plaintiff here, however, the court finds his claims have at least some chance of prevailing for the reasons articulated by other courts.”
He set a hearing for March 21.
After she and her family were previously banned from entering the United States due to an executive order signed by US President Donald Trump, Syrian refugee Baraa Haj Khalaf, center covers her face as she reacts to greetings from people during her arrival at O’Hare International Airport, in Chicago, Illinois, February 7, 2017. (AFP/Joshua LOTT)
In another legal challenge, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint on behalf of several refugee assistance groups over the controversial executive order.
“Putting a new coat of paint on the Muslim ban doesn’t solve its fundamental problem, which is that the Constitution and our laws prohibit religious discrimination,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s immigrant rights project.
“The further President Trump goes down this path, the clearer it is that he is violating that basic rule.”
The ACLU, the preeminent US civil liberties group, and the National Immigration Law Center brought the suit on behalf of the International Refugee Assistance Project and the refugee resettlement group HIAS, as well as several individuals.
The suit alleges that the new executive order violates the constitutional protection of freedom of religion in that it is “intended and designed to target and discriminate against Muslims, and it does just that in operation.”
“Rarely in American history has governmental intent to discriminate against a particular faith and its adherents been so plain,” the complaint says, alleging the new order will cause “irreparable harm” and asking for an injunction.
A federal judge in Maryland, Theodore Chuang, has scheduled a hearing in the case for March 15 — the day before the measure is due to take effect.
Separately, a federal judge in Seattle who issued a nationwide halt to Trump’s original travel restrictions denied a motion to have the same ruling apply to the modified measures, saying at least one of the parties must first file additional court papers.
The state of Maryland said it would join Monday the suit filed by the attorney general from Washington state, which also has the support of Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York and Oregon.
“President Trump’s second executive order is still a Muslim ban,” Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said in a statement.
“The administration persists in an effort to implement a policy that is inhumane and unconstitutional, but also makes us less safe, not more safe.”
The state of Hawaii has filed a separate complaint, and a hearing in that case on whether to impose a national restraining order is set for March 15 as well.
The White House cites national security in justifying the ban, arguing that it needs time to implement “extreme vetting” procedures to keep Islamic militants from entering the country.
Polls show American public opinion is deeply divided on the issue. Most indicate a slight majority of voters opposed, with strong support among Trump’s political base.
SEATTLE (AP) — A federal judge in Seattle on Friday granted a two-week extension to the Justice Department in a lawsuit alleging that President Donald Trump’s immigration order is blocking efforts by legal residents to reunite with their children who are trapped in war-torn countries.
US District Judge James Robart, who halted enforcement of Trump’s immigration order nationwide in February in a separate case brought by the states of Washington and Minnesota, said in his order that the federal government could have more time before responding to plaintiff’s efforts to have the case certified as a class-action lawsuit.
The Justice Department argued that Trump intends to rescind the order and replace it with a new, substantially revised executive order that may “influence the shape of the legal issues … in ways relevant to the class certification question.”
After being repeatedly postponed, a White House official said Thursday a replacement order now won’t be unveiled until next week at the earliest.
Robart also said he understood the frustrations of the parents and Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, who filed the lawsuit, over Trump administration statements that seemingly contradict those made by federal government lawyers.
“The court understands Plaintiffs’ frustrations concerning statements emanating from President Trump’s administration that seemingly contradict representations of the federal government’s lawyers in this and other litigation before the court,” the order said.
Nevertheless, Robart said, the court will continue to rely on statements coming from the federal attorneys.
The lawsuit filed in Seattle’s US District Court in late January claims Trump’s order barring people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the US is unconstitutional. It asked for a judge to intervene and stop the application of the part of the order that suspends visas to citizens of those seven countries.
Juweiya Abdiaziz Ali, one of the plaintiffs, is a US citizen living in Seattle who started the process in August of bringing her son from Somalia. But Trump’s order has her worried that her son’s visa process will be indefinitely suspended, she said.
Like thousands of others, those named in the lawsuit pursued the immigrant visa process that includes hundreds of dollars in filing fees, security screenings, medical examinations and interviews, Matt Adams, the group’s legal director said previously.
The Trump administration has defended the order, saying more restrictions are needed to protect the US from future terrorist attacks.
The new deadline for federal government attorneys to respond to the motion is March 20.
BEVERLY HILLS, California (AP) — One day after the Oscar-nominated directors of foreign language films issued an unprecedented joint statement decrying what they say is a climate of fascism, five of them gathered Saturday at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences to put the focus back on their work.
The foreign language film race has been overshadowed and informed by US President Donald Trump’s seven-country travel ban, which resulted in the Iranian Oscar-nominated director of “The Salesman,” Asghar Farhadi, announcing that because of the ban, he would not attend Sunday’s ceremony.
Academy Governor Mark Johnson, who moderated the discussion, said that he has talked to Farhadi several times in the past week.
“He has made it clear that he is so humbled to be nominated again,” Johnson said. “(He) has chosen not to come for I think reasons we all applaud and completely understand.”
Farhadi previously won the Oscar in 2012 for “A Separation.”
The statement, which was issued collectively but largely written by “Toni Erdmann” writer and director Maren Ade, was the result of a few meetings and emails about what the directors in the category could do to stand in solidarity with Farhadi.
“We wanted to do something if we could. It had a reasonably slow gestation, a few days talking about it, but it was really our collective view,” said “Tanna” co-director Martin Butler of Australia.
“Land of Mine” director Martin Zandvliet added, “We thought it was appropriate to come up with something to show our support.”
For Ade, it was simply the best way to convey what they were all feeling.
“At the Oscars, we don’t know who will win, and the time there is very short,” Ade said. “It’s a complicated topic and an important topic.”
Although films as disparate as a father-daughter comedy and a World War II-era land mine drama have been thrust into a political context that they never foresaw, during the panel the focus turned back on the individual films.
Ade, whose “Toni Erdmann,” from Germany, was a favorite to win before the travel ban thrust “The Salesman” into the spotlight, said that she just “wanted to do a film about family and all of these roles that you play in your family.”
A remake of “Toni Erdmann,” a festival favorite, is already in the early stages of development with Jack Nicholson and Kristen Wiig attached to star.
Swedish director Hannes Holm, nominated for “A Man Called Ove,” about a widower whose suicide plans get thwarted by needy neighbors, said that in adapting the somewhat comic best-seller he “found the love story of my parents hidden in there.”
Danish director Zandvliet, whose “Land of Mine” is nominated, said that he bristled at the idea that the world thought of Denmark as a “happy fairy tale country where only good stuff happens.”
“I thought it was about time to tell the story from the other side that we’re also very hateful and lust for revenge,” Zandvliet said. “I wanted to make one of those stories.”
His movie, he said, while set in WWII, gained an important historical context.
“There was all the talk about closing down Europe, the Syrian refugees, everyone was a terrorist,” he said. “Suddenly the movie became about how we treat each other … The only way we can get people to listen is to show them something horrible.”
The “Tanna” directors, too, wanted to tell stories of a place that few had heard about before — a tiny island just a three-hour flight away from the Australia mainland where four languages are spoken.
Ultimately, the celebration of the foreign language category, which Johnson said has gotten, “stronger and stronger,” came back to the one director who wasn’t there — Farhadi.
“All of you have signed a statement in response to things that are going on,” Johnson said. “It’s not just in defense of artists rights, but human rights. It’s kind of remarkable.”
Some 180 alumni and former staff of a New Jersey yeshiva high school implored graduate Jared Kushner to use his influence with US President Donald Trump, his father-in-law, to ease the path for refugees coming to the United States.
In the open letter from “members of the Frisch School Community,” the signatories expressed “alarm” at Trump’s executive order barring immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority nations. Kushner, who serves as a senior adviser to the president, is a 1999 graduate of Frisch, a co-educational Orthodox school in Paramus.
The letter called it a “rare opportunity” to have a Frisch alumnus play “such a critical role in guiding the future of our country.”
“As fellow graduates, students, parents and educators of the Frisch School and proud members of the American Jewish community, we are alarmed by the President’s Executive Order barring immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim majority nations. Your family and all of ours know too well what can happen when America shuts its doors to those most in need,” read the letter, which was made public over the weekend.
Earlier this month, as the letter circulated, the Frisch School’s Facebook page featured a notice saying that the open letter “is in no way representative of the school’s administration, faculty, or board of trustees.”
“Healthy political discourse and debate is a key component of our democratic society,” the notice continued, adding that the school “will continue to remain as a politically neutral space.”
Since the letter began circulating, federal courts, responding to challenges, placed a temporary stay on the executive order on constitutional grounds.
A revised version of the order could be released this week, The Associated Press reported. According to AP, the new version would focus on the same seven countries, but would only bar entry to those without a visa and who have never entered the United States.
Trump says the refugee ban, meant to be temporary, is necessary to put into place “extreme vetting” procedures to prevent terrorists from entering the country.
In opposing the travel and immigration ban, the Frisch alumni and former staff invoke their families’ experiences, and those of Kushner’s family, as immigrants and refugees. Kushner’s grandparents were Holocaust survivors who came to the United States after spending over three years in a displaced persons camp in Italy.
“Like you, many of us are the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those who escaped to this country when the lands of their birth promised almost certain death; like those of your grandparents, many of their parents, siblings and extended families did not make it to our shores and perished in the Holocaust. The memory of the St. Louis rings fresh in our minds as we see refugees from some of the most war-torn countries on this planet barred from entering our country,” the letter continued.
The letter references the Torah calling on Jews “to love and welcome the stranger, for we too were once strangers in Egypt.”
“We implore you, as a Jew and as a graduate of an institution that instilled you with Jewish values, to exercise the influence and access you have to annals of power to ensure others don’t suffer the same fate as millions of our co-religionists. We ask you to ensure they gain the second chance our grandparents received to succeed and thrive in America,” it concluded.