California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Léon (D-Los Angeles) and fellow Democrats passed Senate Resolution 16 Monday, condemning President Donald J. Trump’s recent executive order restricting travel from terror-prone countries and suspending the refugee program.
The text of the resolution declares that Trump’s executive order “desecrates our American values and panders to fears and nativist instincts that have resulted in some of our nation’s most shameful acts.”
Trump’s executive order temporarily halts refugee admissions for 120 days to research and improve the vetting process, and caps refugee admissions at 50,000 for fiscal year 2017. There is no mention of Muslims anywhere in the executive order, which seeks “to protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States.” It also restricts travel for 90 days for most entrants from seven terror-prone countries previously identified by the Obama administration.
Sen. Hannah Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), a lawyer, said the executive order “is a violation of the Constitution,” claiming it violates religious freedoms. “Only in a dictatorship or totalitarian state does this happen,” Jackson said. “This is how we end up with fascism.”
Senate Republicans opposed the resolution, calling it “political,” and an inflammatory attack on President Trump. Republicans suggested Democrats had not even read the actual executive order, given their claims that it is anti-Muslim (the order does not mention Muslims).
“President Obama took similar actions,” explained Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber). “I don’t remember him getting so criticized.”
“History has shown 40-plus years ago that California elected officials, who happened to be registered Democrat, condemned Presidents Carter and Reagan for allowing Vietnamese refugees like myself to come to this state,” Sen. Janet Nguyen (R-Garden Grove) said. “My father was sought to go to a concentration camp, what the communist government called a reeducation camp, because he served under the former free government of Vietnam. My uncle was executed in the days following the fall of Saigon. So I personally understand the plight of refugees and sympathize with their experiences.”
“But in the end, the debate is about national security,” Nguyen added.
On the heels of demanding the White House release First Lady Melania Trump’s immigration documents, Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) accused legislative Republicans of “playing fast and loose with the facts.” Skinner then claimed that President Trump has financial interests in Middle Eastern countries not included in the order.
Other Democrats were critical of the order being announced on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Several quoted the poem by Martin Niemöller, the Protestant pastor who was an outspoken foe of Adolf Hitler.
Prior to voting on the resolution, Sen. Pres. De Léon recited his own version of Niemöller’s poem:
First they came for the Muslims, and I did not speak out—
Then they came for the immigrants, and I did not speak out—
Then they came for the teachers, and I did not speak out—
Then they came for the scientists, and I did not speak out—
Then they came for the environmentalists, and I did not speak out—
Then they came for the LGBT, and I did not speak out—
Then they came for the strong women, and I did not speak out—
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
The resolution passed on a party line vote, 26-11.