In an unprecedented move by a government agency, over 900 U.S. State Department officials signed an internal dissent memo protesting a travel ban by president Donald Trump on refugees and travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, in a rebellion against the new president’s policies.
The memo was released just hours after Trump said everyone should “get with the program” or quit.
A senior State Department official confirmed the memorandum had been submitted to acting Secretary of State Tom Shannon through the department’s ‘dissent channel,’ a process in which officials can express unhappiness over policy.
A draft of the dissent memo argued that the executive order would sour relations with affected countries, inflame anti-American sentiment and hurt those who sought to visit the United Spates for humanitarian reasons.
It said the policy ‘runs counter to core American values of non-discrimination, fair play and extending a warm welcome to foreign visitors and immigrants.
Trump on Friday signed an executive order that temporarily bans refugees and people from seven Muslim-majority countries, sparking tumult at U.S. airports and protests in major American cities.
But even before the executive order on immigration was issued, concern among State Department officials had been growing over news reports that Trump was about to ease sanctions against Russia, said one State Department official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The resignation of at least four top State Department officials, including Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy, who formally left the department on Tuesday, also caused some unease among diplomats who worried about a power vacuum.
They “should either get with the program or they can go,” press secretary Sean Spicer declared during his daily briefing.
The memo argues that Trump’s executive order barring the State Department from issuing visas to citizens of Sudan, Iran, Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Libya will not achieve its stated purpose, to protect the country from terrorism.
“It further points out that countries such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are not included in the order, even though citizens of those countries have committed acts of terrorism in the United States in the past.”
The executive action will “immediately” sour relations with the countries affected and “much of the Muslim world, which sees the ban as religiously motivated,” the dissenters wrote.
“It will increase anti-American sentiment” the draft memo argues, “hostility towards the United States will grow.”
The State Department has confirmed the existence of the dissent cable, snippets of which appeared today in several news outlets.