- Associated Press - Monday, January 30, 2017

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - From the New Mexico Legislature to the state’s largest college campuses, reaction was strong Monday to President Donald Trump’s temporary ban on refugees from several Muslim-majority countries.

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, a New Mexico Democrat, told a joint session of the Legislature that he was heartsick and sees actions over the past week as an attempt to “fundamentally change our American values.”

As the son of an immigrant, Heinrich said his life would be much different had his father been turned away when he came to America from Nazi Germany in the 1930s.

“President Trump’s actions seek to turn us into the kind of authoritarian nation that we have always stood up to. This in my view is not greatness. This is in fact un-American,” the senator said.

From New Mexico’s largest airport to others around the country, thousands of people have demonstrated since Trump issued an order Friday blocking people from seven countries in the Middle East and Africa from entering the United States. Refugee immigration also has been suspended for four months.

Along with the protests, legal experts are also debating whether the move was constitutional.

U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, the lone Republican in New Mexico’s congressional delegation, said Monday the executive order was poorly executed given the confusion in the Department of Homeland Security and with U.S. citizens at home and abroad.

But the congressman said the nation’s refugee policy needed a comprehensive assessment “after years of the Obama administration failing to follow immigration laws.”

Pearce said he’s hopeful the Trump administration takes swift action to follow through on plans to revise security procedures.

Swift action is what voters were looking for when they elected Trump and so far he’s not disappointing, said Phil Archuleta, a New Mexico business owner, a Trump supporter and a member of the president’s Hispanic advisory council. He said the travel ban is a temporary situation that stems from the nation needing to address security and safety concerns.

“He’s only doing what he promised the American people he was going to do, which was to put a stop on visas from those countries that Obama had already flagged as countries that we had to be careful with,” Archuleta said.

Democratic Rep. Bill McCamley, of Mesilla Park, gave an impassioned speech on the floor of the New Mexico House of Representatives on Monday that chronicled discrimination in the United States from slavery to Japanese internment camps during World War II.

“This is America,” he said. “Our values are not expressed by what happened this weekend.”

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe’s refugee advocacy and support organization, Catholic Charities, also voiced opposition to the executive order as officials at the state’s two largest universities warned students and faculty from the seven Muslim-majority countries on the list not to leave the United States.

At the University of New Mexico, more than 110 students could be affected by the travel ban. The majority are from Iran, with a few from other countries. New Mexico State University has 49 students, faculty and staff from Iran; others are from Libya, Yemen, and Iraq.

Officials at both universities said if any of the students leave, it’s unclear whether they will be allowed to return. Visits from family and friends from their home countries are also currently not an option.

The University of New Mexico said it is offering counseling.

The Islamic Center of New Mexico also is offering help to refugees in limbo. Rana Elshekly, 36, an Iraqi refugee who recently resettled in Albuquerque in October, said the center and Albuquerque Muslims were providing help while she waited for word on her husband’s future. Her husband, Hikmat Ahmed, also an Iraqi refugee, was set to come to the U.S., but he is in limbo because of Trump’s executive order.

On Sunday, Elshekly attended a protest at the Albuquerque International Sunport in support of Muslim refugees and against Trump’s travel ban.

Her husband “doesn’t want me to go to protests like that,” Elshekly said in Arabic through an interpreter. “He also knows I’m fearless.”

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide