Maybe, just maybe, protests actually work.
That was the message both the White House and the U.S. Department of Justice appeared to send to the tens of thousands who converged on airports across the country this weekend—including the fifteen hundred who showed up at Raleigh-Durham International Airport Sunday—to demand that President Trump abandon a constitutionally dubious executive order signed Friday that bars citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States for 90 days, prohibits refugees from any country from coming for 120 days, and blocks Syrian refugees indefinitely.
Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, an Obama administration holdover, told the lawyers under her command Monday to not make legal arguments defending Trump's order on immigrants and refugees.
"My responsibility is to ensure that the position of the Department of Justice is not only legally defensible, but is informed by our best view of what the law is after consideration of all the facts," she said in a letter. "In addition, I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution's solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right."
The president, a psychologically stable human being, responded by firing her and accusing her, in an official statement, of "betray[ing] the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order and being "weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration." In her place Trump installed a lackey to do as he commands until the Senate confirms Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a man whom the Senate three decades ago deemed too racist for the federal bench, to be attorney general.
On Sunday, as crowds were amassing at RDU and elsewhere, John Kelly, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, announced that people with green cards from the seven countries affected by the executive order—Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, the Sudan and Libya—would not be prevented from returning to the United States. Green card holders, it should be noted, are legal permanent residents, and many have been here for decades. Homeland Security reportedly objected to their inclusion in the execution order. The DHS was overruled by White House senior adviser/former Breitbart CEO/Trump puppet master Stephen Bannon. That's not scary at all.
Predictably, North Carolina Democrats have pounced. Flanked by two dozen refugees at a press conference in Durham Monday, U.S. Representative David Price called the executive order "reckless, irresponsible, disruptive," as well as "morally reprehensible." "It's a crisis of our constitutional and our national values," he said, "for those who purport to lead our country." His House Democratic colleagues Alma Adams and G.K. Butterfield were also critical; Adams joined an airport protest in Charlotte, while Butterfield derisively characterized the executive order as a "Muslim ban." Governor Cooper piled on, saying the order made American troops less safe and arguing that Americans could "secure the safety of our country without separating families."
Also predictably, Tar Heel Republicans largely praised Trump's move. Congressmen Robert Pittenger, Richard Hudson, and George Holding all signaled their support, with Holding telling McClatchy in a statement that this was the "right decision." U.S. Representative Virginia Foxx said the order "caused much uncertainty," though she also complained about "shortcomings in the current screening process." U.S. Senator Thom Tillis, meanwhile, issued a statement that both lauds the "immediate action aimed at tightening the refugee screening process" and bemoans the "confusion surrounding the order. ... Implementation of the order should be refined to provide more clarity and mitigate unintended consequences that do not make our country any safer."
As best we can tell, U.S. Senator Richard Burr has not said word one about this.
This article appeared in print with the headline "No Ban, No Wall."