WASHINGTON ― One hundred House Democrats are demanding that all lawmakers be briefed by Friday on President Donald Trump’s executive order targeting refugees and people from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Signed last Friday with limited input from Capitol Hill or Trump’s own team, the policy suspended entry to the U.S. for Syrian refugees indefinitely and established bans on entry for any refugees for 120 days and people with Iraqi, Syrian, Iranian, Sudanese, Somali, Libyan or Yemeni citizenship for 90 days.
After Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly provided a short closed-door briefing to a handful of committee chairs and ranking members on Tuesday, the legislators sent him a letter Wednesday afternoon urging further action on the policy.
“You should understand that such a time limited meeting with a subset of members and senators in no way obviates the need for the briefing we are requesting for all Members,” reads the letter, organized by Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).
The letter, provided exclusively to The Huffington Post, notes that the Trump administration shared guidance on the policy with House Republicans on Saturday, per a Washington Post report, but has offered nothing similar to Democrats.
Many powerful Democrats had already written to Kelly on Sunday with a request for an emergency meeting. In the new letter, the lawmakers said they were increasingly concerned because Trump has since fired the acting attorney general and top acting immigration enforcement official.
“The Executive Order is both controversial and confusing,” they wrote. “The Order has resulted in widespread confusion, as hundreds of individuals have been improperly detained at our airports, at least four federal courts have issued stays concerning the Order, and protests have broken out at airports and other venues nationwide. At the time this letter was sent, 16 State Attorneys General have condemned the Executive Order.”
The legislators wrote that Kelly should provide details on how many travelers have been detained, deported or prevented from boarding planes, how his agency is responding to court rulings restraining the order, and how he plans to provide special exceptions for religious minorities (Christians, per Trump) and partners of the U.S. government.
Democrats secured a similar full briefing on alleged Russian interference in the U.S. election in January after weeks of requests. “We think this situation is more dire because there are immediate implications,” a House aide said, citing a news story about a green card holder who had reportedly died in an Iraqi hospital after being denied entry to the U.S. (That report is now being questioned, but there remains significant evidence of other families suffering because of the ban.)
The letter also asks Kelly to respond to the chief Republican talking point on the policy: a false claim that President Barack Obama did the same thing in 2011. And it highlights the way Trump’s policy is likely to soon damage U.S. security policy, pointing this week’s historic State Department dissent cable and to sensitive U.S. relationships with counter-terror partners abroad.
With Trump still widely unpopular, Democrats are becoming bolder in fighting his policies and aligning themselves with popular resistance across the country.
“We hope you will urge the President to immediately rescind the Executive Order, which has created profound chaos and fear among refugees and immigrants who have been admitted to the United States, as well as their families,” the lawmakers told Kelly. “As a nation of immigrants that has been a refuge for people fleeing persecution from around the world, these actions are contrary to who we are as a nation.”
Read the letter below.
This story was updated to note that a report about a green card holder’s death has since been questioned.