The Massachusetts Senate on Thursday expressed its opposition to President Donald Trump's order on immigration and refugee policy by passing a resolution calling on Trump to rescind the order that "presents serious constitutional and other legal issues."
Seven senators spoke in support of the resolution, with some recounting the stories of how they or members of their families first came to the United States. Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry, whose family emigrated from Haiti, said Trump's order threatens to "criminalize the American dream."
Newburyport Sen. Kathleen O'Connor Ives offered the resolution, which "reaffirms the commonwealth's strong tradition of welcoming immigrants and refugees and rejecting discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion; calls on President Trump to reconsider and rescind those portions of the executive order that interfere with the rights of already documented students, workers, permanent residents, and other visitors; (and) supports the legal actions of our attorney general and other plaintiffs to contest the legality of the executive order in court."
Trump last week signed an executive order suspending for 120 days entry for all refugees and indefinitely suspending access to America for refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria. The order also bars for 90 days citizens from seven largely-Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
"The visa-issuance process plays a crucial role in detecting individuals with terrorist ties and stopping them from entering the United States. Perhaps in no instance was that more apparent than the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when State Department policy prevented consular officers from properly scrutinizing the visa applications of several of the 19 foreign nationals who went on to murder nearly 3,000 Americans," the executive order reads. "And while the visa-issuance process was reviewed and amended after the September 11 attacks to better detect would-be terrorists from receiving visas, these measures did not stop attacks by foreign nationals who were admitted to the United States."
The White House has said the executive order will protect the United States "from foreign nationals entering from countries compromised by terrorism ..."
O'Connor Ives said the resolution is important "to communicate to our residents, not only of our own districts, but for the commonwealth statewide that Massachusetts is always going to be a place that rejects any type of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, nationality, religion or gender," she said. "It is important for us to be on the record in this regard at this moment in time."
Forry delivered the most impassioned speech in support of the resolution, saying the Trump administration "believes in hate" and "wants us to turn our eyes from immigrants" like her parents.
"I stand here as a proud first generation American. My parents left everything they knew behind in a little country they called Haiti and they came to this great America, because this is a great country, in search of opportunity," Forry, a Dorchester Democrat, said. "I can tell you it's only in this great America that a child of immigrants can stand before you as a state senator for the First Suffolk district. I am proud today, proud of our work because it reiterates the America that my parents worked so hard to be part of and it reiterates the America that I have been proud to serve in public service."
Sen. Jason Lewis recounted how his family left South Africa under apartheid when he was 12 years old and the opportunities they have had in America.
"Fortunately my parents did not want to continue to raise their children in a society with those values and we were able to come to the United States," Lewis said. He added, "I believe this executive order is antithetical, contrary to American values and at the end of the day, it's our values that make our country great. Our values of freedom, justice for all, equality for all, opportunity for all."
Sen. Sal DiDomenico told the story of his grandfather's solo journey to America from Naples, Italy, as a 14-year-old boy. He worked two full-time jobs every day for 30 years, the senator said, so his children could have a better life for themselves.
"This is the best country in the world, where you have an Italian immigrant, 14 years old, come to this country all by himself and two generations later his grandson is sitting in this chamber," DiDomenico said. "That's what this country is all about. That's what this country is all about, not what we're seeing in Washington D.C. today."
Sen. John Keenan said he is concerned that Trump's order and other actions could erode America's standing as a country that is "strong, compassionate, caring and willing to be a symbol of freedom, and willing to be a home for those who seek freedom." He also talked about the "great immigrant story" of Massachusetts and America, and his own place in that story.
"It is a great, great American story and ... we do have an obligation as characters in that great immigrant story, as unique chapters in that great immigrant story, we have an obligation to make sure that it's a story without end," he said. "The order that has been filed by the president of the US runs contrary to all of that."
The resolution was adopted on a voice vote and members described it as being bipartisan.
Members of the Republican caucus have previously opposed resolutions aimed at compelling the federal government or Congress to act a certain way, saying it is not the job of the state Senate to weigh in on federal issues, but there were no such objections Thursday.