Just 10 days after leaving office, Former President Barack Obama has issued a statement on President Donald Trump‘s immigration ban, rejecting any comparison between his own immigration orders and the one Trump issued on January 27.
Obama said he was “heartened” by the “level of engagement” Americans have shown since Trump signed the order, adding that he referenced how Americans can be involved in politics in his Farewell Address.
Here is Obama’s complete statement, released by his new spokesperson, Kevin Lewis:
President Obama is heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities across the country. In his final speech as President, he spoke about the important role of [the] citizen and how all Americans have a responsibility to the guardians of our democracy — not just during an election but every day.
Citizens exercising their Constitutional right to assemble, organize and have their voices heard by their elected officials is exactly what we expect to see when American values are at stake.
With regard to comparisons to President Obama’s foreign policy decisions, as we’ve heard before, the President fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion.
That last statement was in response to the Trump Administration’s comparison between its own actions and a 2011 executive order Obama signed that stopped the processing of Iraqi refugees for six months. Unlike the Trump order, it didn’t have an impact on green card holders or anyone who had already completed the refugee vetting process.
The Trump Administration has also disputed the media’s reference to the order as a “Muslim Ban,” even though it only affected people from seven Muslim-majority countries. Trump said in a statement released on January 29:
To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is not about religion – this is about terror and keeping our country safe. There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order. We will again be issuing visas to all countries once we are sure we have reviewed and implemented the most secure policies over the next 90 days. I have tremendous feeling for the people involved in this horrific humanitarian crisis in Syria. My first priority will always be to protect and serve our country, but as President I will find ways to help all those who are suffering.
The seven countries impacted by the Trump executive order are Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen. In December 2015, Obama signed a law that included travel restrictions and limitations to the Visa Waiver Program for anyone traveling to the U.S. from thee countries.
As CNN notes, the law only limited the visa-waiver travel and people who traveled to the U.S. without a visa from these seven countries had to apply for one to travel there. The law stated that dual citizens of Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Syria needed to travel to the U.S. with a visa. Dual citizens of Yemen, Libya and Somalia could use the waiver program if they didn’t travel to these countries after March 2011.
Trump’s order expands on this law. Citizens from the seven countries were barred from entering the U.S. for 90 days, beginning on January 27. Syrian refugees were barred from entering indefinitely.
Obama’s comment on January 30 is the first time he’s spoken out since leaving the White House. During his final press conference, he outlined what it would take to get him to comment on an action from Trump. He said he would comment on “certain moments where I think our core values may be at stake” and that specifically included “systematic discrimination.”