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Nearly 1,000 at State Department Oppose Trump's Travel Ban

The State Department Building is pictured in Washington, Jan. 26, 2017.
The State Department Building is pictured in Washington, Jan. 26, 2017.
Nearly 1,000 at State Department Oppose Trump's Travel Ban
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A large number of U.S. State Department workers have expressed concern about President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration.

The Foreign Service officers and civil service employees added their names to a memo critical of the immigration order.

State Department officials confirmed that the document was presented to the department’s leadership through what they call the Dissent Channel. The channel is a way for U.S. diplomatic workers to offer their personal opinions about foreign policy issues.

Last week, President Trump signed an order banning entry to refugees and people from seven Muslim-majority countries.

VOA reporters have read an early version of the State Department memo. It says the signers are worried that the order will not achieve its goal “to protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States.”

The memo warns that the action will immediately hurt relations with allies in the fight against terrorism. It suggests other possible steps, including improving visa and immigration screening.

State Department officials would not tell VOA how many people signed the dissent or what their duties are. However, sources tell VOA almost 1,000 people signed the dissent.

Robert Ford served as the U.S. Ambassador to Syria during the presidency of Barack Obama. He says if about 1,000 people signed the document, it would be much larger than the number who signed a dissent criticizing the Obama administration’s policy on Syria. Diplomats say that Dissent Channel memo had 51 signatures.

Laura Kennedy is a former ambassador to Turkmenistan. She said the large number of signatures and its release to reporters “are clear indicators of the widespread concern within the department over this specific policy step and unease over the broad direction of foreign policy."

On Monday, presidential spokesman Sean Spicer rejected the dissent. Spicer told reporters that anyone at the State Department who opposes the order should, in his words, "either get with the program or they can go.” He said the order is “about the safety of Americans” and the limits the president ordered are “common sense.”

The State Department says it usually receives four to five Dissent Channel messages each year. Workers who use the Dissent Channel are guaranteed protection from punishment.

Former diplomats strongly criticized Spicer’s reaction. Some consider it a threat against members of the Foreign Service.

Harold Hongju Koh is a former assistant secretary of state and State Department legal adviser. He is a now a professor at Yale University School of Law in Connecticut. He told VOA “the time-honored tradition of respectful dissent at (the) State (Department) is supported by the very American and constitutional values that this cable honors and that the executive order tramples.”

VOA Correspondents Steve Herman and Nike Ching reported this story. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted their report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

executive order – n. an order that comes from the U.S. President or a government agency and must be obeyed like a law

dissent – v. to publicly disagree with an official opinion, decision or set of beliefs

achieve – v. to become successful; to reach a goal

screen – v. to examine (people or things) in order to decide if they are suitable for a particular purpose

source – n. a person, book, etc., that gives information

indicator – n. a sign that shows the condition or existence of something

trample – v. to treat other people’s rights, wishes or feelings as if they are worthless or not important