Top Dems demand emergency meeting with DHS secretary

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Top House Democrats on the Judiciary, Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs committees are calling for an emergency meeting with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly because of the “widespread chaos and confusion” spurred by President Donald Trump’s sweeping immigration orders.

Democrats including Detroit U.S. Rep. John Conyers, the leading Democrat on the Republican-run House Judiciary Committee, argued in a letter that Trump’s executive order temporarily barring refugees and visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries “belies our proud heritage as a Nation of tolerance, a place of refuge, and a beacon of freedom for the world, and should therefore be rescinded by President Trump.”

The letter was signed by Conyers, Homeland Security ranking member Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Eliot Engel of New York and Zoe Lofgren of California.

The letter states that considerable confusion clouds judgment on what legal rights are now afforded to lawful green card holders and the ambiguity surrounding U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents’ obligations after federal court orders seeking to limit Trump’s executive order.

“There continues to be ongoing uncertainty concerning your Department’s compliance with the recently issued court orders,” the letter to Kelly says. “Thus, even though a federal court in Virginia ruled that DHS must ‘permit lawyers’ access to all legal permanent residents being detained at Dulles International Airport,’ it was reported U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents continued blocking attorneys from talking to lawful permanent residents detained there.

“Confusion was also spawned by statements by DHS that ‘President Trump's Executive Orders remain in place — prohibited travel will remain prohibited, and the U.S. government retains its right to revoke visas at any time if required for national security or public safety;’ and by White House Policy Director Stephen Miller that nothing in the judge's order ‘in anyway impedes or prevents the implementation.’”

The White House on Sunday clarified a portion of Trump’s order, saying that people from the seven affected countries with green cards wouldn’t necessarily be kept from returning to the U.S. from overseas.

Trump also defended his order in a statement, saying the United States will “continue to show compassion to those fleeing oppression, but we will do so while protecting our own citizens and border.”

“To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting,” Trump added. “This is not about religion — this is about terror and keeping our country safe.”

In a series of Saturday tweets, Republican Rep. Justin Amash of the Grand Rapids area criticized Trump’s immigration order as overreaching and unconstitutional, “like Pres. Obama’s executive actions on immigration.”

But Rep. Dave Trott, R-Birmingham, said he supports Trump’s order.

“The scenes of refugees fleeing their homes across the Middle East are absolutely heartbreaking. As a father, I feel for these families who have been ripped from their homelands,” Trott said in a Sunday statement.

“However, I understand that our first and foremost priority must be to ensure the safety of American families — our children and loved ones.”