Three dozen former federal prosecutors — many Democrats, but some Republicans — issued a statement Thursday denouncing President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning people from the predominantly Muslim countries of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen from entering the United States.
“If we were called upon to defend the executive order, could we do it within the guidelines we learned and lived by as lawyers for the United States?” said the statement signed by 36 former federal prosecutors who worked in South Florida, including three U.S. attorneys in Miami. “We could not. …
“It would be our job, if we were representing the United States today, to say, no, this executive order is wrong and should not be defended,” the statement reads.
The group condemned Trump’s order as “a thinly veiled attempt to exclude Muslims from certain countries based on their religion,” and lauded Acting Attorney General Sally Yates for refusing to enforce the order because she did not believe it was lawful. Yates was summarily fired by the president.
Last Friday, Trump issued his order, which focused on “protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States.” It prompted praise from his supporters who elected him, but also provoked outcry from protesters across the country, including Miami.
His order not only bans for 90 days visitors from those seven Muslim countries from entering the country, but also permanently bars the entry of Syrian refugees until the president determines their admission would be “consistent with the national interest.”
The president’s order also suspends for 120 days the U.S. admissions program for all refugees while a review of the screening process takes place. His order, however, gives priority to refugee claims made by persecuted members of religious minorities, namely Christians.
The South Florida group of former federal prosecutors — including U.S. attorneys Roberto Martinez, Marcos Jimenez and Jeffrey Sloman, along with former state Sen. Dan Gelber — said they were compelled to issue their statement “in light of these extraordinary recent events,” including Yates’ firing.
“We could not candidly tell a court that the United States has the right to turn away refugees fleeing grave danger, even though they have already been fully vetted and approved for admission,” the group wrote. “We could not candidly tell a court, consistent with these principles, that the United States has the right to bar admission to people who are otherwise lawfully permitted to enter the United States, based solely on the fact that others of their religion are perceived to be potential security threats.
“We could not candidly tell a court that the United States has the right to detain or forcibly return people who have lawfully traveled here, based solely on their religion and country of origin.”
The signatories said Trump’s order “would permit the president to give preference to Christians over Muslims for admission to the United States,” and that such a “religious preference” does not comport “with our Constitution.”
The group concluded its two-page letter on a note of equal protection: “In short, the executive order is inimical to the values of the Justice Department and the United States, most significantly, that individuals may not be treated more harshly under the law solely on account of their religion.”