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Congressman Welch Condemns Immigration Executive Orders

Vermont Congressman Peter Welch (right) discusses presidential executive order on immigration with Vermont ACLU Executive Director James Lyall (left)
Pat Bradley/WAMC
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Vermont Congressman Peter Welch (right) discusses presidential executive order on immigration with Vermont ACLU Executive Director James Lyall (left)

The debate over the constitutionality of President Trump’s immigration Executive Order flared last night when the acting Attorney General of the United States was fired after refusing to enforce the mandate.  The debate between the Justice Department and the White House was occurring as Congressional Democrats gathered in front of the Supreme Court to protest what New York Senator Charles Schumer called an “inhumane” order.  Among them was Vermont Representative Peter Welch, who earlier in the day was in Burlington condemning the president’s actions.Democrat Peter Welch sat beside the head of the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont as he expressed his outrage and concern over the Executive Order signed over the weekend that restricts travel from seven countries in the Middle East.  “I've never seen an action by the United States, by the President of the United States, that has been so damaging to the tradition of religious liberty and an open acceptance of people who are seeking asylum as this order by President Trump.”

Just days before President Trump issued the immigration ban, two Syrian refugee families settled in Rutland.  Congressman Welch met with them last week and is appalled that  other people seeking refuge are now being turned away.   “This is going to make us less safe not more safe. Among the people who are now affected by this program and can't get in this country are people in Iraq, particularly, who served our military. And those people when it becomes known in Iraq that they did that are dead. It's as simple as that. And under the President's ban those interpreters from Iraq cannot get asylum when it's our duty to not leave them behind. So this program that the president has implemented has got to be overturned.”

Welch says the U.S. is smart about security and he is willing to see vetting — but not a religious test.   “This presidential order by President Trump is essentially a ban on Muslims coming whether they're vetted or not. These children, they are dangerous, why? Because they're Muslim?

The ACLU is one of several groups that led legal challenges to the president’s orders.  ACLU Vermont Executive Director James Lyall says they are ready to respond to any threats to the Constitution.   “These are not limited orders. This is not just a policy debate. Make no mistake this is the beginning of an attempt to radically change the direction of this country. An action that strikes to the core of who we are as a country: a country where the government does not single out any religion for special treatment or mistreatment. And so the ACLU is ready to challenge the administration to the extent they choose to go down this path. The good news is that the law is on our side. And it is time for the courts to step up, for our institutions to step up and for the American people to step up. And it's really encouraging to see that that is happening. That must continue. This is only the beginning.”

Welch plans to work with his colleagues in the House to craft legislation to reverse the president’s order.   “There are very simple. Number one: legislation to overturn the ban. Congress would have the authority to do that. Uphill battle but there's a number of my Republican colleagues who are very concerned about what President Trump has done. Number two: legislation that would prohibit the use of any funds at the Department of Homeland Security or Customs and Border Patrol from implementing the order.”

The mayors of Vermont’s eight cities also called on President Trump to rescind the order. In a statement they say it will negatively impact Vermont, is unconstitutional and violates their oaths to protect citizens.  Vermont Governor Phil Scott, a Republican, criticized the order in a statement, noting it has “…the potential to erode civil liberties and states’ rights…”   He has ordered the state Attorney General to assess the constitutionality of the Executive Order and is convening a Civil Rights and Criminal Justice Cabinet to further review the order.
 

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