Donald Trump called Monday for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” an idea swiftly condemned by his rival GOP candidates for president and other Republicans.
The proposed ban would apply to immigrants and visitors alike, a sweeping prohibition affecting all adherents of Islam who want to come to the U.S. The idea also raised immediate questions about its legality and feasibility, as experts could point to no formal exclusion of immigrants based on religion in America’s history.
Trump’s campaign said in a statement such a ban should stand “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
The statement added that Trump’s proposal comes in response to a level of hatred among “large segments of the Muslim population” toward Americans.
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“Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life,” Trump said in the statement.
He added on Twitter: “Just put out a very important policy statement on the extraordinary influx of hatred & danger coming into our country. We must be vigilant!”
Several of Trump’s Republican rivals were quick to reject the latest provocation from a candidate who has delivered no shortage of them.
“Donald Trump is unhinged,” Jeb Bush said via Twitter. “His ‘policy' proposals are not serious.”
Carly Fiorina said, “Trump’s overreaction is as dangerous as President Obama’s under-reaction.”
John Kasich slammed Trump’s “outrageous divisiveness,” while a more measured Ted Cruz, who has always been cautious about upsetting Trump’s supporters, said, “Well, that is not my policy.”
Ben Carson said he would not advocate “being selective on one’s religion” but does believe that “Everyone visiting our country should register and be monitored during their stay.”
Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said Trump’s proposed ban would apply to “everybody,” including Muslims seeking immigration visas as well as tourists seeking to enter the country.
He did not respond to questions about whether it would also include Muslims who are U.S. citizens and travel outside of the country, or how a determination of someone’s religion might be made by customs and border officials.
There are, for example, more than 5,800 servicemen and women on active U.S. military duty and in the reserves who self-identify as Muslim and could be assigned to serve overseas.
Trump was also unclear on whether his ban would apply to Muslim allies in the fight against Islamic State militants.
Ari Fleischer, a former aide to Republican President George W. Bush, tweeted, “Under Trump, the King Abdullah of Jordan, who is fighting ISIS, won’t be allowed in the US to talk about how to fight ISIS.”
Religion can factor into immigration decisions, but that typically happens when people are fleeing religious persecution. So people of a particular religion may get favorable treatment by the United States, as when Russian Jews sought to leave the Soviet Union.
But experts could cite no blanket prohibition on immigrants based on religion. In the late 1800s, Congress passed legislation broadly aimed at halting Chinese immigration.
“There is no precedent for a religious litmus test for admitting immigrants into the United States,” said Leti Volpp, a University of California expert on immigration law.
“Excluding almost a quarter of the world’s population from setting foot in the United States based solely upon their religious identity would never pass constitutional muster,” Volpp said.
In response to a request for additional detail, Trump said via a campaign spokeswoman: “Because I am so politically correct, I would never be the one to say. You figure it out!”
Trump’s proposal comes a day after President Barack Obama spoke to the nation from the Oval Office about the shootings in San Bernardino, California, which Obama said was “an act of terrorism designed to kill innocent people.”
The FBI said Monday the Muslim couple who carried out the massacre had been radicalized and had taken target practice at area gun ranges, in one case within days of the attack last week that killed 14 people.
Trump’s campaign has been marked by a pattern of inflammatory statements, dating back to his harsh rhetoric about Mexican immigrants.
He has taken a particularly hard line against Muslims in the days since the Paris attacks, advocating enhanced surveillance of mosques due to fears over radicalization.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest accused Trump of playing on people’s fears and trying to tap into “a darker side, a darker element” of American society.
From the Democratic presidential campaign, Bernie Sanders said: “Trump and others want us to hate all Muslims. The United States is a great nation when we stand together. We are a weak nation when we allow racism and xenophobia to divide us.”
On Capitol Hill, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona said of Trump’s idea, “It’s just foolish.”
But will it hurt his campaign? “I have no idea,” McCain said. “I thought long ago that things he said would hurt his prospects, and he continues to go up.”
Reactions to Trump’s plan to bar Muslims from entering US
“Donald Trump is unhinged. His ‘policy' proposals are not serious.”
– Jeb Bush, former Florida governor and GOP candidate for president, via Twitter
“Well, that is not my policy. I’ve introduced legislation in the Senate that would put in place a three-year moratorium on refugees coming from countries where ISIS or al-Qaida control a substantial amount of territory. And the reason is that’s where the threat is coming from.”
– Ted Cruz, Texas senator and GOP candidate for president
“There are folks in this race who don’t care about what the law says because they’re used to being able to just fire people indiscriminately on television. So, they don’t have to worry about what laws say or not say.”
– Chris Christie, New Jersey governor and GOP candidate for president
“Trump’s overreaction is as dangerous as President Obama’s under-reaction.”
– Carly Fiorina, former technology executive and GOP candidate for president
“Everyone visiting our country should register and be monitored during their stay as is done in many countries. I do not and would not advocate being selective on one’s religion.”
– Ben Carson, retired neurosurgeon and GOP candidate for president
“I think this whole notion that we can just say no more Muslims, and just ban a whole religion goes against everything we stand for and believe in. Religious freedom has been a very important part of our history and where we came from. … It’s a mistaken notion.”
– Dick Cheney, former vice president, speaking with radio host Hugh Hewitt
“That does not reflect serious thought. Just when you think he can’t stoop lower, he does.”
– Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake
“As a conservative who truly cares about religious liberty, Donald Trump’s bad idea and rhetoric send a shiver down my spine. American exceptionalism means always defending our inalienable rights, not attacking them when it’s politically convenient.”
– Matt Moore, chairman of the Republican Party of South Carolina, via Twitter
“There are some issues that transcend politics. While my position is certainly political, I am an American first. There should never be a day in the United States of America when people are excluded based solely on their race or religion. It is un-Republican. It is unconstitutional. And it is un-American.”
– Jennifer Horn, chairwoman of the Republican Party of New Hampshire
“Is Trump talking about Muslim-American citizens? If so, the right to enter one’s country of citizenship is an internationally guaranteed human right.”
– Leti Volpp, an expert on immigration law at the University of California at Berkeley
“You have an issue with people coming in. Imagine it’s a human body and you have this thing that’s entering the body breaking it down and creating illnesses. All he is saying is don’t let anything else in right now and fix the problem before we do. It shouldn’t be religion-related, but unfortunately it is religion-related.”
–Trump supporter John Metzer, who works in real estate in Atlanta, at a Trump rally Monday night in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
“Anyone who cares an iota about religious liberty will denounce the reckless, demagogic (at)realDonaldTrump plan for Muslims.”
– Russell Moore, president of the ethics and religious liberty commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, via Twitter
“This is reprehensible, prejudiced and divisive. (at)realDonaldTrump, you don’t get it. This makes us less safe.”
– Hillary Clinton, former secretary of state and Democratic candidate for president, via Twitter
“Demagogues throughout our history have attempted to divide us based on race, gender, sexual orientation or country of origin. Now, Trump and others want us to hate all Muslims. The United States is a great nation when we stand together. We are a weak nation when we allow racism and xenophobia to divide us.”
– Bernie Sanders, Vermont senator and Democratic candidate for president
“I thought long ago that things he said would hurt his prospects, and he continues to go up.”
– Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who called Trump’s plan “just foolish”
Mayor bans Trump after candidate suggests blocking Muslims
A Florida mayor says he’s banning Donald Trump from his city after the Republican presidential candidate called for the U.S. to stop Muslims from entering the country. Playing off of Trump’s earlier words, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman tweeted Monday that he was banning Trump “until we fully understand the dangerous threat posed by all Trumps.”
The Tampa Bay Times reports the mayor’s jab was retweeted more than 1,200 times in about an hour.
Trump’s proposed ban is in response to what he called hatred among “large segments of the Muslim population” toward Americans. Trump said the ban should be implemented “until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses.”