WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump lashed out yesterday at signs of rising public opposition to his controversial travel ban as tech giants threw their weight behind a push in US courts to roll it back. With the ban suspended since Friday, the legal battle has moved to San Francisco where a US court of appeals ordered the administration to submit a brief yesterday defending Trump’s Jan 27 decision. The president’s executive order summarily denied entry to all refugees, and travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – a move critics charge will damage US interests.
Despite initial public support, two new polls show that a majority of Americans now oppose the ban – findings that Trump angrily dismissed as media lies. “Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election,” he said on Twitter. “Sorry, people want border security and extreme vetting.” Trump, who spent the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, is said to be increasingly frustrated with his staff’s failure to contain the fallout from the ban’s botched rollout, which sparked chaos at US airports and drew international condemnation, the New York Times reported.
The order slapped a blanket ban on entry for nationals of the seven mainly-Muslim countries for 90 days and barred all refugees for 120 days. Refugees from Syria were blocked indefinitely. But Friday in Seattle, a federal district judge ordered the temporary nationwide suspension of the president’s order, allowing the thousands of travellers who were suddenly barred from US soil to start trickling back in.
In an additional blow, a slew of Silicon Valley giants led by Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter filed a legal brief late Sunday in support of the lawsuit. The 97 companies speaking out against Trump’s travel ban said it harms recruiting and retention of talent, threatens business operations, and hampers their ability to attract investment to the United States. The ban “inflicts significant harm on American business, innovation, and growth,” said the brief, whose backers also include Airbnb, Dropbox, eBay, Intel, Kickstarter, LinkedIn, Lyft, Mozilla, Netflix, PayPal, Uber and Yelp.
A group of prominent Democrats including former secretaries of state John Kerry and Madeleine Albright joined their voices to the criticism on Monday, in a legal filing to the San Francisco appeals court. “We view the order as one that ultimately undermines the national security of the United States, rather than making us safer,” they said. “Reinstating the executive order would wreak havoc on innocent lives and deeply held American values.” Specifically, the Democrats said Trump’s travel ban could endanger US troops in the field, disrupt counterterrorism cooperation and feed Islamic State group propaganda.
Top Republicans also have also shown renewed signs of discomfort with the new president, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell chiding Trump on Sunday for attacking the judge who suspended the ban. “I think it is best to avoid criticizing judges individually,” he said on CNN. Trump had blasted Judge James Robart in a series of angry tweets. “Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!”
The appeals court in San Francisco on Sunday refused to overrule Robart, and ordered the administration to present a brief by 2300 GMT yesterday. Vice President Mike Pence called the setback “frustrating”. “We will move very quickly,” he told Fox News on Sunday. “We are going to win the arguments because we will take the steps necessary to protect the country, which the president of the United States has the authority to do.”
The attorney generals for the states of Washington and Minnesota, which won the temporary stay of Trump’s ban, have asked the appeals court to refuse to reinstate it. Before now, they argued, no US president has imposed “a categorical bar on admission on a generalized (and unsupported) claim that some might engage in misconduct,” they argued. “The order flouts Congress’s clear command prohibiting nationality-based discrimination,” they said.
With the ban suspended, travelers from the targeted countries holding valid visas have begun arriving on American soil. In New York, 33-year-old Sudanese doctor Kamal Fadlalla rejoiced – after a week blocked in his home country, he was back in the Big Apple with friends and colleagues. “It feels great,” Fadlalla told AFP on Sunday at John F Kennedy International Airport. “It was a tough week actually.”
Iranian graduate student Sara Yarjani, who was initially deported under Trump’s order, arrived in Los Angeles. “I am so grateful to all the lawyers and others that helped me,” she said tearfully. The State Department has said visa holders from the seven countries are allowed to travel to the US as long as their documents have not been “physically canceled”. – AFP