Community leaders split over President Trump's travel ban

Local leaders react to President Trump's controversial travel ban
Published: Jan. 30, 2017 at 2:56 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 30, 2017 at 6:05 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Over the weekend, President Trump signed an Executive Order banning travel to the United States for non-citizens from seven Middle Eastern countries.

The order is temporary, but its impacts continued to reverberate worldwide on Monday, including here in Hawaii, where the order stirred deep emotions for the state's Muslim community, as well as for an attorney who represents Hawaii's immigrant and refugee populations.

Hakim Ouansafi is the chairman of the Muslim Association of Hawaii. He says he's been in contact with families in the affected countries, including several people who will be unable to reach Hawaii under the terms of the executive order.

"What this is doing is blocking the grandmother whose coming to check on her grandchildren, blocking [the] reunion of husbands and wives," says Ouansafi. "It's not affecting the terrorists."

The University of Hawaii is also watching the situation closely. The school has told students who are originally from the countries listed on the travel ban to avoid leaving the United States, out of fear they may not be able to return.

Demonstrations like the one yesterday at the Honolulu International Airport erupted across the country in response to the president's ban. A federal judge in New York on Saturday blocked parts of the order, and late Monday Mr, Trump fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who earlier stated she would not defend the immigration order.

There is local support for Trump's order as well. Fritz Rohlfing, the chair of the Hawaii GOP, defended the executive action, saying protests over them were overblown.

"There's nothing [in the order] that says 'Muslim' or 'not Muslim,' but these countries are a danger or are supportive of terrorism," said Rohlfing. "What we should be concerned about is protecting U.S. citizens and not protesting orders of the President."

The Trump administration maintains the ban is about national security, but Hawaii immigration attorney Clare Hanusz disagrees.

"If you look at the 9-11 hijackers, most of them had ties back to Saudi Arabia," said Hanusz. "Saudi Arabia is not on this list."

Ouansafi believes the immigration order is just the first of more controversial Trump initiatives.

"Some of our worst nightmares are starting to happen," Ouansafi says. "Initially, we thought this was going to be nothing but rhetoric, a campaign thing."

In the meantime, State Attorney General Doug Chin on Monday joined a group of other state's Attorney Generals in opposition to President Trump's immigration order.

Chin issued a scathing condemnation of President Trump's immigration ban over the weekend, describing it as unlawful and vowing to work with other legal officers to "ensure the federal government obeys the Constitution and respects our history as a nation of immigrants."

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