After President Trump signed an executive order late on Friday temporarily barring refugees from entering the country and suspending all immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries, airports were thrown into chaos as people who thought they would be able to enter the U.S. were detained for hours, sometimes without legal counsel, or forced to leave the country.
Even as protests erupted throughout the nation, extreme anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim groups, who have long pushed for these kinds of sweeping restrictions, cheered.
The anti-Muslim group ACT for America, which has been urging Trump to completely shut down the refugee resettlement program and has boasted of its “direct line” to the president through a number of his top advisers, defended Trump’s order on Twitter:
There is no “Muslim ban.” There is a ban from countries with high terrorist activity. No ones fault they all happen to be mostly Muslim…
— ACT for America (@ACTforAmerica) January 29, 2017
The group’s president, Brigitte Gabriel, accused the president’s critics of “anti-Westernism”:
It’s not about human rights for those opposing President Trump’s executive action, it’s about anti-Westernism.
— Brigitte Gabriel (@ACTBrigitte) January 30, 2017
The anti-American fringe enables radical Islam because they both have a common enemy, Western civilization.
— Brigitte Gabriel (@ACTBrigitte) January 29, 2017
The group approvingly tweeted remarks that extremist pro-Trump activist Sheriff David Clarke gave to Breitbart News, falsely claiming that refugee resettlement is about “able-bodied grown men” of “fighting age” rather than kids:
— ACT for America (@ACTforAmerica) January 30, 2017
Philip Haney, a former Department of Homeland Security officer who has recently become a hero of the anti-Islam movement, told WorldNetDaily that the protests at airports across the country signaled an alliance between progressives and Islamists that could eventually trigger violent conflict:
As seen at protests in major U.S. airports Sunday, the radical left is eager to take up the crusade of Muslim activism. Haney says it’s not just American Muslims who will join this fight, either, but global Islamic extremists who are invested in destroying Israel, propping up the Muslim Brotherhood, and continuing the flow of Shariah-compliant Muslims from the Middle East into Western democracies.
“These three points will trigger conflict between the global Islamic community and the Trump administration,” he told WND. “There aren’t any other issues that have the volatility to precipitate actions up to and including violence.”
Ann Corcoran, a leading anti-refugee activist, called the order a “great beginning” but said that she wanted to see the refugee program “completely reformed.” The question at stake, she wrote, is, “Will America, in generations to come, be an Islamic caliphate, or not?”
Dan Stein of the Federation for American Immigration Reform praised the order in a press release, saying that it “will save American lives” :
A temporary time-out in refugee admissions will allow time for the new administration’s intelligence leaders to review and enhance vetting procedures. Doing so will save American lives. ISIS has made it crystal clear that it intends to use the refugee flow to infiltrate the West, including the U.S., and these actions will hopefully stymie those plans and protect Americans from future attacks.
William Gheen, the extremist anti-immigrant activist behind Americans for Legal Immigration (ALIPAC), sent out a fundraising email linking Trump’s actions on refugees and immigration to the nomination of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions to be attorney general, calling Sessions “our strongest ally against amnesty and illegal immigration in the US Senate”:
Do you support Donald Trump’s orders to begin construction of the wall and set up “extreme vetting” procedures for immigrants and refugees from terrorist-producing nations?
Do you support his nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions for Attorney General, up for a critical vote Tuesday, since Sessions has been our strongest ally against amnesty and illegal immigration in the US Senate?
Do you support Donald Trump’s announced plan to launch a national investigation into voter fraud including illegal alien voters as we have strived to stop at ALIPAC for almost a decade?
Gheen added that his group needed money because “illegal alien backers are spending millions on opposition groups, protesters, and even Republican lawmakers resolved to stop this attempt to secure America!”
While some conservative Christian groups spoke out against the executive order—including the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, whose head, Samuel Rodriguez, spoke at Trump’s inauguration—others on the Religious Right have been quick to defend the president.
American Family Radio’s Bryan Fischer, who called for a ban on Muslim immigration years before Trump did, insisted that outcry over the immigration bans showed that Islam is not a “religion of peace”:
By making a calm, reasoned response to Trump’s “ban,” Muslims have an opportunity to prove Islam is a religion of peace. How they doing?
— Bryan Fischer (@BryanJFischer) January 29, 2017
Speaking with the Huffington Post before the details of the order were clear, evangelist Franklin Graham said that such immigration restrictions are “not a Bible issue”:
“It’s not a biblical command for the country to let everyone in who wants to come, that’s not a Bible issue,” Graham told HuffPost. “We want to love people, we want to be kind to people, we want to be considerate, but we have a country and a country should have order and there are laws that relate to immigration and I think we should follow those laws. Because of the dangers we see today in this world, we need to be very careful.”
The Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Ralph Reed similarly defended Trump’s order:
In an interview Saturday with The Washington Post, Faith and Freedom Coalition chairman Ralph Reed defended Trump’s executive order, calling it an “entirely prudent move” and rejecting the notion that it amounts to a ban on Muslims or infringes on religious liberties.
“It makes perfect sense not to try to build the airplane in the air,” said Reed, who advocated hitting “the pause button” on current practices on immigration and refugee policies, over concerns about terrorism.
It’s telling that Trump chose to advocate his refugee policies in a softball interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody, where he framed them as a way to protect Christians overseas, despite the fact that Christians coming to America were affected by the move.