Over 1,000 State Department Personnel Officially Dissent to Immigration Order

More than 1,000 foreign service officers and civil service personnel of the U.S. State Department have now signed a dissent document about the president’s recent order on refugees’ travel restrictions, sources told VOA on Tuesday.​

The number of signatures, if it does total some 1,000, is “unprecedented” and about 20 times the number of dissenters for last year’s memo from diplomats sharply criticizing the Obama administration’s Syria policy, said former U.S. Ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford.

The huge numbers for the immigration memo and its early leaking “are clear indicators of the widespread concern within the department over this specific policy step and unease over the broad direction of foreign policy,” said Laura Kennedy, former deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs.

“These are extraordinary times,” she added.

The Dissent Channel memo, which warns that the administration’s move “will not achieve its aims and will likely be counterproductive,” has yet to be formally submitted, according to the State Department, which says it cannot comment on its substance, how many have signed it or the ranks of the signatories.

Those at the State Department who oppose President Donald Trump’s immigration order “should either get with the program or they can go,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters on Monday. “This is about the safety of America.”

Former diplomats bristled at what is being perceived as a implicit threat against the foreign service community.

“The Dissent Channel is an entirely appropriate means of expressing opposition to the top leadership of the Department of State,” Ford told VOA. “The Trump people shouldn’t take it so personally.”

“I was appalled by (Spicer’s) comment,” said Kennedy, also a former ambassador to Turkmenistan, told VOA. “It either implied a complete misunderstanding of the dissent channel or the legal protections there are, or it’s intended to send a signal that dissent, whether private or public, will not be tolerated.”

“The time-honored tradition of respectful dissent at State is supported by the very American and constitutional values that this cable honors and that the executive order tramples,” Yale University Law School professor Harold Hongju Koh, a former assistant secretary of state and State Department legal adviser, told VOA.

President Trump last Friday signed an executive order prohibiting entry to refugees and people from seven Muslim majority countries. The order includes a 120-day suspension of refugee admissions and a 90-day entry ban for people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Spicer added from the podium Wednesday the order is “about the safety of Americans” and the steps the president ordered are “common sense.”

According to a draft seen by VOA, the dissent memo expresses grave concerns that the travel ban will not achieve its goal “to protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States.” It also warns that the action will “immediately sour relations” with key allies in the fight against terrorism, given many of the nations whose citizens are now restricted from traveling to U.S. soil.

The memo suggests alternatives, including improving visa and immigration screening.

The Dissent Channel was established in 1971, amid disputes about Vietnam War policies, to allow U.S. diplomats to speak freely about foreign policy matters.

Typically four to five Dissent Channel messages are received each year, according to the State Department. Last year’s Syria Dissent Channel memo had 51 signatures, according to diplomats.

When State Department or U.S. Agency for International Development employees believe their voices are not heard by supervisors, they may use the Dissent Channel. At the State Department, the policy planning staff is supposed to review it, circulate it to authorized people and reply in substance to the dissenters within 60 days.

Those utilizing the Dissent Channel are protected from reprisals, disciplinary action or unauthorized disclosure of its use, according to the government’s Foreign Affairs Manual.

Ford, who was a career member of the U.S. Foreign Service, predicted that if the White House tries to retaliate “they’ll end up with lawsuits.” But Ford added that after expressing their opinion through the proper channels,​foreign service officers are obligated to implement administration policy.

“It is their job to implement what the president and his team decide,” explained Ford. ” If they can’t implement it then, frankly, they should think whether they should be in a government job.”

Ford, currently a Senior Fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington, acknowledged the challenge of U.S. diplomats in Baghdad having to explain “why this policy is a good policy” to their counterparts who fought alongside U.S. forces against terrorist elements.

“I can’t imagine anything more difficult,” Ford said. Without proper guidance from Washington “they have to wing it which is even harder.”

Officials on Monday also revealed that the State Department is receiving multiple cables from its embassies about foreign anger concerning the restrictions on travel to the U.S. from the predominately Muslim countries in the executive order.

“As is standard, the State Department remains in contact with its embassies around the world on foreign policy issues,” a department official, speaking on condition of not being named, told VOA when asked about the cable. “We will not comment on internal communications.”

The president’s nominee to be secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, has yet to be confirmed by the Senate. A vote on Tillerson, a recently retired oil and gas company executive, is expected this week.

Executive Orders: How Presidents Make History

The first two weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency have seen him sign a number of documents setting out policy on issues ranging from the travel ban, his order demanding that two regulations be rescinded for every one passed, to the rollback of the Affordable Care Act, and removing the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Some of these documents have come in the form of executive orders, and some as White House memoranda. What’s the difference? What kind of power do they carry, and what are some of the most famous?

Executive orders vs. memoranda

First things first: both have what is known as the “force of law,” which means they have the same power as legislation passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president.

The differences are more subtle.

– Executive orders are numbered and published in the Federal Register, the official journal of the United States government; memoranda need not be published there.

– Executive orders must specify the authority behind the order, whether it is the Constitution or a law.

– Executive orders must also indicate the price of executing the order; memoranda do not require a price tag unless they exceed $100 million.

Two important things to note about executive orders and memoranda: they’re implementation isn’t automatic. For instance, one of President Obama’s first acts as president was to sign an executive order closing the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center. Sixteen years later, it’s still up and running.

The other important thing to note is that some of the president’s executive orders, building a border wall for instance, are going to cost the United States billions of dollars and Congress is in charge of the money needed to build that wall.

Under the Constitution, Congress has the unique power to spend or “appropriate” government dollars. It’s not yet clear if Congress is willing to spend that kind of money to help President Trump make good on a campaign promise.

Some of the biggest

Every U.S. president except one (William Henry Harrison) has issued executive orders and memoranda, from George Washington all the way up to President Trump. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the only president who served more than two terms, also issued the most executive orders, a whopping 3,721 of them, most regarding measures to combat the Great Depression and U.S. actions during World War II.

Some executive orders have literally changed history, for better or worse. Here are a few of the most famous:

The Emancipation Proclamation. President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. It freed all slaves living in the Confederacy during the Civil War. Since the southern states had seceded from the Union, the proclamation had little effect initially other than to ensure the freedom of any slaves who escaped to the northern states.

The New Deal. In the midst of the Great Depression, FDR issued many executive orders designed to get jobless Americans working again. During the winter of 1933, he established the Civil Works Administration, which created 4 million new government jobs. He also used his presidential authority to create the Export/Import Bank, and in 1934, the Rural Electrification Administration, which brought electricity to remote parts of the country.

Japanese-American Internment. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii in 1941, FDR signed Executive Order 9066, which allowed military leaders to designate strategic parts of the country as “military areas … from which any or all persons may be excluded.” It also gave the military the responsibility to “provide for residents … who are excluded … such transportation, food, shelter, and other accommodations as may be necessary…” The result was that 120,000 men, women and children, most of them American citizens of Japanese descent, were deported from the U.S. West Coast and placed in internment camps between 1942 and 1945.

Desegregation of the Military. In 1948, three years after the end of World War II, President Harry Truman signed Executive Order 9981, which officially desegregated the United States military. The order was a simple statement: “There shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the Armed Services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin.” Up until that point, military units were segregated by race; soldiers trained, worked and even fought in groups separated by race.

Sign of the times

Very few of the thousands of executive orders and memoranda that have been issued are as momentous as the ones listed here. Some of them express the frustration of a president facing a hostile Congress unwilling to pass legislation. Others are expressions of issues of great topical importance. Together they offer an insight into American history and reflect the priorities of each president and the times in which he served.

Homeland Secretary Defends Immigration Ban, Denies Targeting Muslims

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has defended the implementation of President Donald Trump’s executive order restricting immigration, saying “we cannot gamble with American lives.”

“This is not a travel ban, this is a temporary pause that allows us to review the existing refugee and vetting visa system.” Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said.

He said the new order is aimed at keeping terrorists out of the country but stressed that it is not a “Muslim ban.”

WATCH: Kelly on Trump’s immigration order

Officials say 872 refugees will be admitted to the country because of hardship concerns, despite the order.

Trump wasted no time Monday night in firing an acting attorney general who earlier in the day ordered the Justice Department not to defend his executive order temporarily banning travelers from seven mostly Muslim countries.

A White House statement said Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, a holdover from the Obama administration, “betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States.”

The statement also called Yates “weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration.”

It said Trump relieved her of her duties and named Dana Boente, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, to serve as acting attorney general. The president’s nominee for attorney general, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, is likely to be confirmed soon by his Senate colleagues.

Earlier Monday, Yates wrote a letter to Justice Department lawyers saying, “I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right.”

Then-President Barack Obama appointed Yates to be deputy attorney general in 2015, and she was asked to stay on by the Trump administration until a new attorney general is confirmed by the Senate.

After Trump relieved Yates of her duties, the White House said, “Calling for tougher vetting for individuals traveling from seven dangerous places is not extreme. It is reasonable and necessary.”

At the White House briefing Monday, spokesman Sean Spicer launched a fresh defense of Trump’s sweeping travel ban, saying only a tiny fraction of those entering U.S. territory since Friday have been affected.

Spicer told reporters that 109 people have so far been stopped from entering the United States, out of 325,000 foreign nationals who have entered the country in a single 24-hour period since the ban was imposed.

He said those 109 individuals had been “temporarily inconvenienced,” and characterized those detentions as a small price to pay to ensure the safety of all Americans. 

Trump took to Twitter earlier Monday to defend his executive order, which suspends U.S. entry to all refugees for 120 days, and bans Syrian refugees indefinitely. The decree further blocks citizens of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Yemen and Somalia from entering U.S. territory for a period of three months.

WATCH: Trump Defends Executive Order, Criticizes Schumer

Trump has insisted the ban is not a religious measure targeting Muslims, instead calling it a series of precautionary steps needed to keep America safe.

However, the national litigation director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Lena Masri, on Monday called the ban a “Muslim exclusion order” and said her organization was filing two lawsuits challenging the executive orders.

The ban was initially described as blocking green card holders from Iran and the six other Muslim majority nations from reentering U.S. territory, but the Trump administration has since sought to clarify the directive, saying green card holders and non-citizen visa holders will no longer be automatically blocked.

Top lawmakers bristle, call for reversal

Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer continued to attack the travel restrictions Monday, saying the ban should be reversed immediately “because it is un-American.”

On the floor of the Senate, he warned colleagues that Islamic State extremists stand to gain the most from the travel ban, saying they “want nothing more than to paint the United States as a country at war with Islam.” He also reminded his audience that America was founded “by the descendants of asylum seekers,” and that the country has been “constantly invigorated by immigrants.”

Senior Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, both members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, criticized Trump’s order Sunday, saying the confusion at airports showed the measure was “not properly vetted.”

Trump responded to McCain and Graham on Twitter, calling them “weak on immigration” and saying they should be focused on Islamic State, illegal immigration and border security.

Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, also blasted the travel ban.

In comments to VOA’s Urdu service, he said Trump “did not convince any of us that he has sound legal or national security concerns. For example, the Syrian refugees are subjected to at least two years of scrutiny and extreme vetting already, and once they come here they are safe, they are vetted. There is no terrorist attack that happened at the hands of a Syrian refugee, or any refugee, that we know,” Awad said. “So for him to base all his executive order on [that] false notion is un-American, unethical.”

Confusion reigns at airports

The ban’s implementation led to a weekend of confusion, particularly at the nation’s airports, where in some cases people holding green cards as permanent legal residents were detained for extra questioning before being allowed entry.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly issued a statement Sunday seeking to clarify the policy, saying he deems “the entry of lawful permanent residents to be in the national interest.”

Separately Monday, State Department employees and U.S. diplomats opposed to Trump’s order circulated a “dissent channel memo” that said the administration’s move “will not achieve its aims and will likely be counterproductive.”

The State Department says it is aware of the memo. The Dissent Channel is a longstanding official vehicle for State Department employees to convey alternative views and perspectives on policy issues.

Signs are seen strewn about the ground as protesters rally at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, California, Jan. 29, 2017.

Right to revoke visas

In a separate statement Sunday, the Department of Homeland Security said the government retains its right to revoke visas at any time if necessary for national security. That followed an emergency order by a federal court in New York temporarily barring the deportation of people who arrive at U.S. airports with a valid visa or an approved refugee application.

Judge Ann Donnelly wrote, “There is imminent danger that, absent the stay of removal, there will be substantial and irreparable injury to refugees, visa-holders, and other individuals from nations” who are subject to the president’s order.

Trump has repeatedly called for stricter screening of refugees, and the senior administration official who briefed reporters Sunday described the previous system as “woefully inadequate.”

State Department correspondents Steve Herman and Nike Ching, and reporters Mohamad Olad, James Butty and Saqib Islam contributed to this report

To Get Story, Somali Journalists Risk Bullets and Bombs

On Wednesday, January 25, events in Mogadishu showed again why the Somali capital might be the most dangerous city in the world for journalists.

Reporters had rushed to the Dayah Hotel after al-Shabab militants detonated a truck bomb at the hotel’s main gate and then stormed the premises, exchanging gunfire with security guards. The entire façade of the five-story hotel had been ripped away, and bodies littered the street.

 

The reporters were interviewing rescue workers and surveying the damage when a second vehicle bomb went off, 15 minutes after the first. Seven journalists suffered shrapnel wounds. One, a reporter for French news agency AFP, was taken to a local hospital with life-threatening injuries and remained there as of Monday.

Sustaining injuries during explosions and attacks by al-Shabab is a common experience for journalists working in Mogadishu. Al-Shabab, which is attempting to overthrow Somalia’s federal government, regularly attacks the capital’s hotels, which are gathering spots for officials, parliamentarians and government-connected business people.

Most of the reporters are freelancers, with no security to protect them and no health benefits if they are injured on the job.  

Feisal Omar, a photographer for the Reuters news agency, says journalists charge into a dangerous situation anyway.

“When things happen, freelance journalists are the first to arrive at the scene only with cameras. The place we are arriving at is very hostile, explosions can target us, we can be caught in the crossfire, and we can be arrested by government security agencies because of the pictures we shot,” Omar said. “We are like first responding unarmed soldiers.”

In 2011, Omar was one of three Reuters photographers who won awards at the 54th annual World Press Photo contest. Two years later, in November 2013, he was injured in an explosion at Mogadishu’s Sahafi hotel.

 

‘Operating with indefinite death sentence’

Six of the journalists injured Wednesday were working on freelance contracts with major news agencies and television networks , among them AFP, the Associated Press, Al-Arabia and Al Jazeera television.

One of them was photojournalist Farah Abdi Warsame of AP. He took second prize in the General News Stories category of the 2010 World PressPhoto contest. His photo showed a young man being stoned to death by Somalia’s al-Shabab militants.

 

Abdi, 45 and a father of three, said he and his fellow freelance journalists are on alert every day, 24/7, to rush to where the news breaks, and many times they themselves become part of the headlines.

Wednesday marked the second time he was injured covering the news.

“In July 2016, I was also among several journalists hurt in a press conference bombing in Mogadishu,” he said. “It is like operating with an indefinite death sentence.”

Abdi said he knows the danger he faces when he leaves home every day, but has good reason to sacrifice.

“Knowing the risks and the fact that I want to show the world the outrage and sometimes positive things happening in my country, I rush to everywhere the news breaks, regardless of the risks surrounding me,” he told VOA’s Somali service. “I must also take care of my three kids.”

 

Another journalist injured on Wednesday was Abdulkadir Zubeyr, a cameraman with the Al Arabiya news channel. In December 2009, his older brother, Hassan Zubeyr, who was also a cameraman for Al-Arabiya, was one of 25 people killed in the bombing of a graduation ceremony at the Hotel Shamo in Mogadishu.

“I took the job after my brother died to take care of his kids and the family.” Zubeyr said. “I knew the risk.”

The exploitation of freelancers

 

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which has documented journalists’ deaths worldwide, 62 have been killed in Somalia since 1992. In some cases, al-Shabab has murdered journalists for what the group considered unfriendly reporting, or for alleged collaboration with the government.

Many of the deaths, however, occurred while journalists were trying to take pictures or gather information for a story.

Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu, secretary-general of the National Union of Somali Journalists, who previously worked with the BBC and Reuters, said more than 100 freelance journalists are working with foreign media outlets, risking their lives daily in Mogadishu.

“In a country, where 70 percent of the population is under the age of 30 and [there is] 75 percent unemployment, the result is that very young, inexperienced freelance journalists risk their lives for survival,” Moalimuu said. “They depend on photography to make a living.”

He says media companies exploit them and buy their material for less than $60 regardless of the story, the quality and the danger they go through to garner them.

“They get no training, safety instructions, safety equipment or insurance, and they report from combat zones in Somalia, one of the world’s most dangerous places, and unfortunately they do not get benefits equivalent to their materials and dedications,” Moalimuu said.

 

“They are cheap labor in a dangerous zone, and receive no proper treatment from the editors at the companies they work with, who mostly likely sit in very peaceful offices in Nairobi. A lack of experience, combined with a lack of money and respect, can be deadly for journalists in war zones.”

Abdullahi Olad Roble, Somalia’s deputy minister of information, said he has warned journalists to be careful.

“I know journalists like to tell the story, and I think all of them know (that) no story is worth dying for. Please, try not to rush to the battle zones and attack scenes because that only increases the chance of you dying in explosions, crossfire and terrorist booby traps,” Roble said.

 

He accused international and local media outlets of thrusting inexperienced young journalists into tragic circumstances.

“Most of the active video- and photojournalists whose work appears on the Somalia international headlines do not get the necessary hostile environment training they need. And the news outlets they work for push them to put themselves in harm’s way to report first-hand,” he said.

Behind-the-camera Female Oscar Nominees Fall 2 Percent

Women earned a number of barrier-breaking Oscar nominations this year, but overall representation of women in Oscar-nominated behind-the-scenes categories fell two percent according to a report from the Women’s Media Center published Monday.

The report, authored by awards blogger Sasha Stone, noted landmark achievements — like how Jackie composer Mica Levi became the first women to be nominated for original score, and how Joi McMillon became the first black woman to earn an editing nomination — but bemoaned the decrease in female nominees overall despite efforts by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to expand and diversify membership. 

For the seventh year following Kathryn Bigelow’s historic win for The Hurt Locker in 2009, no women were nominated for best director. Only one woman was nominated in any screenwriting category, Allison Schroeder for Hidden Figures, down from three last year, and, once again, no women were nominated for cinematography.

Other categories experienced similar drops, save an increase in nominations for women in the Sound Editing and Sound Mixing categories.

The percentage of Oscar nominees was slightly better than overall behind-the-scenes employment numbers for 2016, which the Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film reported was 17 percent for the top 250 domestic grossing films.

“Clearly, women cannot get through the door and if they cannot get through the door, they cannot be recognized — and rewarded — for their excellence and impact,” said Julie Burton, president of the Women’s Media Center. “We ask the studio and agency executives who are OK with making a bunch of deals that exclude women to ‘Be Better.’”

Trump Brings Whirlwind of Change in Early Days

During last year’s presidential campaign, Donald Trump’s supporters were thrilled with the idea that he would become Washington’s “disrupter-in-chief.” Less than two weeks into his presidency, no one could dispute that Trump is doing all he can to follow through on that pledge.

Since his inauguration January 20, Trump has moved quickly to deliver on his agenda of change. He has signed several executive orders aimed at jump-starting key parts of his domestic policy priorities, but his highly controversial move to tighten immigration and his insistence on investigating voter fraud in the November 2016 election have become major distractions in the early days of his presidency.

Immigration furor

Trump’s order banning entry to refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries has sparked a firestorm around the country and internationally. There have been protests at U.S. airports and in several cities blasting the new policy as unfair to immigrants.

Trump has fired back on Twitter. “There is nothing nice about searching for terrorists before they can enter the country,” Trump said in one tweet early Monday. In another, he added there “are a lot of bad ‘dudes’ out there.”

At the White House on Monday, Trump defended his decision.

“We actually had a very good day yesterday in terms of homeland security. We had to make the move and we decided to make the move,” he said.

Vocal opposition

Democrats were quick to express opposition and, in some cases, outrage with the Trump order on immigration.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer told a news conference Sunday in New York that the measure was “mean-spirited,” and added, “it was implemented in a way that created chaos and confusion across the country and it will only serve to embolden and inspire those around the globe who will do us harm.”

WATCH: Schumer’s Emotional Response to Immigration Order

Even some Republicans seemed unsettled by Trump’s push for extreme vetting of immigrants.

Ohio Senator Rob Portman told the Associated Press that Trump’s “extreme vetting proposal didn’t get the vetting it should have had.” Portman added that the administration should “come up with something that makes sense for national security” and also reflects the notion that “America’s always been a welcoming home for refugees and immigrants.”

Frenzy of activity

By any measure, Trump’s first days in office have been a whirlwind featuring numerous executive orders on trade, Obamacare, cutting government regulations and, most controversially, tightening immigration.

Trump said the flurry of executive actions is aimed at delivering on his campaign promises.

“We’re here now because tens of millions of Americans have placed their hopes in us to transfer power in Washington, D.C., and give it back to the people,” Trump said in a speech in Washington last week.

But there have been distractions that extend beyond the immigration uproar.

Trump’s habit of issuing statements through Twitter and his preoccupation with the size of his inaugural crowds present challenges in terms of his leadership style.

House Speaker Paul Ryan was asked about that during last week’s Republican congressional retreat in Philadelphia.

“I think we are going to see unconventional activities like tweets and things like that, and I think that is something we are just all going to have to get used to,” he said.

Fixation on alleged voter fraud

Trump has also called for a probe into possible voter fraud based on his claim, offered without proof, that he lost the popular vote because millions of illegal immigrants voted for his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

Democrats say there is no evidence to back the president’s allegation of massive voter fraud.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said she finds the fixation concerning.

“I, frankly, feel very sad about the president making this claim,” she said. “I felt sorry for him. I even prayed for him. But then I prayed for the United States of America.”

WATCH: Pelosi Calls Trump’s Voter Fraud Claim is ‘Strange’

Trump’s fixation on alleged voter fraud is a distraction that could become a political liability down the road, said analyst John Fortier of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington.

“On big things like changing Obamacare, on tax cuts, on [cutting] regulatory things, and Donald Trump is still emphasizing border security and the building the wall [with Mexico], those are things that I think they will try to act relatively quickly on and use those [Republican congressional] majorities before the momentum of the early part of the administration fades away,” Fortier told VOA.

Even some Republicans have urged the president to drop the voting fraud issue, especially his claim that he lost the popular vote to Clinton because 3 million to 5 million illegal immigrants voted against him.  Numerous state officials in charge of voting around the country, both Republicans and Democrats, have said there is no evidence to support such a claim.

Polls show a mixed picture

Trump got some mixed news on the polling front in recent days.

A new Quinnipiac University survey found voters support a suspension of immigration from “terror-prone” regions by a margin of 48 to 42 percent. But the same poll also found that 59 percent of those asked believe illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the U.S. and eventually apply for citizenship.

On his broader job performance, the president remains underwater. Last week’s Quinnipiac poll found his positive job approval rating at 36 percent, with 44 percent registering a negative view.

But the survey also found that Trump enjoys strong approval among Republican voters by a margin of 81 percent to 3 percent. Among Democrats, the rating was 77 percent disapproval to 4 percent in favor.

Targeting core supporters

Trump’s focus on delivering for his core supporters seems to be paying dividends in bolstering his approval with that group. However, some analysts believe Trump should try to broaden his appeal beyond his core following.

“Two-point-eight million, or 2.9 million more people voted for Hillary Clinton,” said Brookings Institution scholar John Hudak. “It is not to say his presidency is illegitimate. It’s not. But it is to say that he has a lot of work to do to convince the American public that he represents and reflects the values of a majority of them.”

For now, though, Trump seems determined to follow through on the pledges he made at all those raucous rallies during last year’s presidential campaign. To the delight of his supporters, and to the alarm of his critics, Trump is plowing ahead no matter the intensity of the political pushback aimed back at him.

Dulles Dispatch: Protesters Greet Travelers With Smiles As U.S. Travel Ban Confusion Persists

DULLES INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Virginia — Travelers filing out of the airport international exit on January 30 were greeted with smiles, signs, and songs on the third day of protests against President Donald Trump’s temporary ban on foreign travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Dozens of demonstrators lined the corridor leading out of the international arrivals hall held up placards reading “We are all immigrants,” “Welcome home,” and “Won’t you be my neighbor?” throughout the day, occasionally breaking into songs like America The Beautiful and This Land Is Your Land.

It was a pleasant sight for travelers arriving from all over the world, many of whom grinned and thanked the volunteer welcoming committee. One airline crew member passing the crowd thrust his thumb skyward in a sign of approval.

Despite the show of support at the U.S. capital’s main gateway for international travelers, rights activists and volunteer attorneys who have set up shop in the hall expressed frustration. They say they have been unable to obtain information about individuals who may have been detained by Customs and Border Protection officers acting on the Executive Order signed by Trump on January 27.

That order has sparked chaos not just at Dulles, but at airports around the United States, and the world, as travelers got mixed messages who was affected, and border agents enforced the rules haphazardly. Adding to the chaos were a series of federal court rulings that suspended some of the executive order.

The protests also sparked massive protests in U.S. cities and at a growing number of airports, as well. 

“Right now our efforts are somewhat thwarted by the fact that Customs and Border Protection here at Washington Dulles has not been communicative about how many people are in deferred inspection, whether they’re refugees, or green-card holders, or special-immigrant visa holders,” Nithya Nathan-Pineau of Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition told RFE/RL.

Her group was manning one of two tables stocked with doughnuts, coffee, and granola bars set up by a small army activists and volunteer attorneys working to identify relatives of travelers who may have been detained under the temporary ban on arrivals from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen.

The Trump administration has defended the measure as critical to the nation’s security and has said it is not a “Muslim ban.”

Many of the protesters at Dulles on January 30 held anti-Trump placards, though the president had at least one voter among the crowd. Danny, a 33-year-old from Virginia who declined to give his last name, said he voted for Trump because he despised his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

He told RFE/RL that he came out to protest because “America is built on civil liberties and the protection of our civil liberties, and any erosion of our civil liberties should be an issue for all members of a free, sentient, and educated society.”

“We don’t classify people based on religion in this country, nor will we stand by and abide by it,” Danny said.

Volunteers, both young and old, remained throughout the afternoon asking coordinators how they could pitch in.

Kamyar Arsani, a 24-year-old teacher originally from Tehran, told RFE/RL that he had arrived for the third straight day to offer his assistance as a Persian translator.

He said that so far he has interacted with two Iranian families, residents of Washington, who had difficulties crossing the border with their green cards, officially known as lawful permanent residency permits.

“They were held for 24 hours, and their questioning was pretty much ridiculous questioning that had nothing to do with terrorist interactions or anything,” Arsani said. “And after that they just released them.” 

The White House has defended the order as a necessary way to protect American citizens. Spokesman Sean Spicer insisted to reporters January 30 that its impact had been “blown way out of proportion and exaggerated.”

Senator Tim Kaine (Democrat-Virginia), who was Clinton’s vice presidential nominee in the 2016 election, denounced the measure as a religion-based ban, “pure and simple.”

He said border officials told him that no one had been detained at Dulles since January 29.

Kaine also said border officials explained to him how the policy applies to green-card holders from the countries listed in Trump’s executive order. They will be allowed to board flights abroad, then will be questioned upon entry into United States, with the expectation that they will then be allowed in, he said.

Meanwhile, a growing number of Republican lawmakers have spoken out about the order, though many have focused on its confused rollout rather than its legality or the specific groups it has targeted. 

Senators John McCain (Republican-Arizona) and Lindsey Graham (Republican-South Carolina) released a statement January 29 that said the order could be a propaganda victory for Islamic extremists. 

Senators Marco Rubio (Republican-Florida) and Tim Scott (Republican-South Carolina) said in a joint statement that “the manner in which these measures were crafted and implemented have greatly contributed to the confusion, anxiety and uncertainty of the last few days.”

Senator Pat Toomey (Republican-Pennsylvania) said he supported increased vetting for immigrants, but he said “unfortunately, the initial executive order was flawed — it was too broad and poorly explained.”