Throughout the weekend, thousands of Americans across the country (and several hundred in Idaho) rallied to decry President Donald Trump’s executive order that temporarily limits entry into the United States from several countries in the Middle East.
Conservative Idahoans watched from afar, with feelings of surprise, frustration and disappointment.
“(Trump) isn’t trying to be mean to anybody,” said Robynn Williams. “He’s trying to be safe.”
Williams and her mother, Cindy Heinze, who owns a small business in Caldwell, both voted for Trump. They said the president’s efforts are a matter of security, and of ensuring immigrants and refugees are doing things “the right way” before they’re granted entry into the United States.
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Williams said she wasn’t familiar with all of the details of Trump’s order. But she agreed with what she’d heard so far.
“You don’t want to just let anybody in your front door that wants to kill people,” said Williams.
“Obama did it, Clinton did it, Bush did it,” Heinze said.
Trump claimed on Facebook that in 2011, then-President Barack Obama banned visas for Iraqi refugees for six months after the discovery of al-Qaida ties to two Iraqi nationals living in Kentucky. But according to the Associated Press, State Department data shows 9,388 Iraqi refugees were admitted to the United States during the 2011 budget year. The data also show that Iraqi refugees were admitted every month during the 2011 calendar year.
The Obama administration did slow processing for Iraqi nationals seeking refuge in the U.S. under the government’s Special Immigrant Visa program for translators and interpreters who worked with American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Other uses of the president’s broad discretion over immigration restrictions in recent decades have been very targeted. A Congressional Research Service report dated Jan. 23 and passed around as part of some online media reports lists examples such as President Bill Clinton blocking “members of the military junta in Sierra Leone” and President George W. Bush forbidding entry to “foreign government officials responsible for failing to combat trafficking in persons.”
Idahoans who support Trump’s executive order voiced rebuttals to the recent protests that echo arguments Trump supporters are making online. For example, proponents say the list of affected countries — Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Yemen — was actually created by the Obama administration. That list comes from 2015, when Congress voted to require visas and additional security checks for foreign citizens who normally wouldn’t need visas — such as those from Britain — if they had visited the seven countries. This was included in a large spending bill passed overwhelmingly by Congress and signed by Obama.
Reports indicate that no refugees from the countries included in the travel ban have killed anyone in terrorist attacks in America.
Over the weekend, dozens of lawful permanent residents from the affected countries — green-card holders — were detained at U.S. airports, prompting the Trump administration to take a step back on the sweeping ban late Sunday night.
Their problems led to court stays against parts of Trump’s order. But again, not everyone in Idaho saw the detainments as an issue: “They were being double-checked out,” said Joseph Briner, who lives near Murphy.
He also worries continuing to allow an influx of refugees into the U.S. would create strain on our own system. “Nobody has a problem with (immigrants) coming here, but if everybody comes here, we’d be Mexico,” he said, citing the country’s struggles with drug cartels, among other issues.
What about those refugees who would be on their way right now to the U.S., and safety? Williams said Trump is working with the countries included in the ban to develop “safe zones” on their own turf. The Washington Post reported Sunday that Trump mentioned such safe zones for Syria in particular during phone calls with leaders of Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. But it’s unclear exactly what those would look like and how they would be implemented.
Though the countries affected by Trump’s executive orders are majority-Muslim, supporters of the legislation take issue with calling it a Muslim ban — and the text of the legislation does not specifically single out Muslim individuals. Trump, however, has indicated in some interviews that Christian refugees will be a priority, and the text of his executive order gives preference to individuals who are “a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.” Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani recently told Fox News that Trump had asked him to create a plan for a Muslim ban that would meet legal tests.
“This is not about religion,” Trump said in a statement on Facebook. “There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order.”
For some, standing behind Trump and his executive orders is just what Americans should do for their president.
“I don’t know enough about (the order), but there are probably great people trying to get away from (war). But I stand behind Trump because he’s my president,” said Chantele Hensel, who voted for independent conservative Evan McMullin in the November election.
Briner said he not only stands behind the president, but also behind the rights of other Americans to launch the protests that clogged a handful of airports across the U.S. this weekend. Other Idahoans said protesters need to be more informed.
“Before you go protest, you need to get all your facts,” Heinze said. “I think Boise does it because the rest of the country is doing it.”
I know our country is all about freedom of religion, but if you’re white, believe in God ... you can’t say anything. You can’t do anything.
Cindy Heinze, Caldwell
Her daughter agreed.
“I think most protests are stupid because people don’t know what they’re protesting about,” Williams said. “Everyone is so sensitive.”
Hensel runs the Caldwell Perspective community newspaper. She said she thought the energy from protests could be channeled into something that helps Americans and unites the country, though she acknowledged the importance of demonstrations.
“I know great things have happened in this country because of protest and people standing up saying, ‘I don’t agree with that,’” she said.
If those who spoke Monday to the Statesman were critical of Trump, it was, as some lawmakers have also said, about his hasty implementation of the order. Heinze said she also hopes the president develops a thicker skin as his term continues.
“He needs to mellow out and quit taking everything so personal,” she said. “Stop getting sucked in and doing things out of spite.”
CORRECTION: This article originally misstated the Obama administration’s 2011 actions regarding Iraq.
The Associated Press contributed.