Review Category : National News

Trayvon Martin’s Parents Speak Out on Political Ambitions, New Memoir

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Nearly five years after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot dead while walking in a gated community in Florida, his parents are speaking out in a new book that chronicles their experience and honors the memory of their son.

“My son was an average teenager,” Sybrina Fulton said Tuesday on ABC News’ Good Morning America. “He was a mama’s boy. He was very affectionate.”

Fulton, who said her son used to call her “Cupcake,” and Tracy Martin, who described his son as his “best friend,” started a foundation after their son’s death and are now considering running for public office in the future.

“Somebody asked a question about us running for office, and I said it was something that we were exploring, you know, in [the] long term,” Fulton said on GMA. “It’s not something that we’re filling out papers for, but we certainly want to look at the positions that are available locally and we want to look at the positions for the state of Florida and then U.S. positions.”

She added, “We want to take a look at those positions to see what areas we would best fill and we would benefit from and they would benefit by having us there.”

Fulton and Martin’s son was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a volunteer neighborhood watch captain, on Feb. 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida. The killing of the unarmed teen spurred protests around the country and debates about racial profiling, gun laws and self-defense.

Trayvon Martin was unarmed — carrying a pack of Skittles sweets and a bottle of iced tea — when he was shot.

Zimmerman, who maintained that he killed the teen in self-defense, was tried for murder but was acquitted. The U.S. Department of Justice subsequently investigated the case, but later announced it was closing its investigation and filing no charges.. Federal prosecutors said at the time there was not sufficient evidence to prove Zimmerman intentionally violated Martin’s civil rights.

Fulton and Martin’s memoir, Rest in Power: The Enduring Love of Trayvon Martin, recalls their son’s life and describes the struggles the parents say they faced in the wake of his death, from dealing with the criminal justice system in Florida to getting their son’s body back in their possession.

“It constantly was a struggle for us,” Fulton said. “The information should have been given to us, and it was just a constant struggle what we had to go through as we grieved the loss of our son.”

Fulton and Martin describe in the book the people who came to their aid after Trayvon Martin’s death as being like angels who descended upon them. They are now helping others through The Trayvon Martin Foundation, which is dedicated to ending senseless gun violence and strengthening families.

“What the foundation does is have a voice for the voiceless,” Martin said, adding that their work for the organization has been “therapeutic.”

“It doesn’t matter if your child has been killed by senseless gun violence or whether it’s child abuse or domestic abuse or whatever, the foundation is there,” Martin said. “We’ve become a community-based organization just to reach out to those that are in need of help.”

Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin is available now.

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Police Use Pepper Spray on Anti-Trump Protesters in Ohio

iStock/Thinkstock(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — Police in Ohio used pepper spray to disperse a crowd of unruly protesters rallying against President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration Monday night.

Police warned the crowd multiple times to clear the intersection of High and State Streets in Downtown Columbus to make way for traffic, according to ABC News affiliate WSYX.

Video posted on Twitter at around midnight on Tuesday showed police officers in gas masks spraying the crowd that gathered near the Ohio Statehouse brandishing anti-Trump signs and chanting.

Crowd blocking High St.near @OhioStatehouse gets multiple warnings. Police use mace on protestors who say they want to grow their movement. pic.twitter.com/Lfk5F19ONl

— Lu Ann Stoia (@stoiawsyx6) January 31, 2017

A representative for the Columbus chapter of the group Socialist Alternative told ABC News that it organized the rally and promoted it on its Facebook page.

“Several of our members were part of the group who were pepper sprayed, but many other groups showed up in solidarity,” Kyle Landis, one of the event’s organizers, told ABC News on Tuesday morning.

The Columbus Police department did not immediately respond to ABC News’ requests for comment on the matter.

The event, called “Resit Trump: Rally for the 99 percent,” was advertised to start on Monday at 6:30 p.m. local time. The group said it is against President Trump’s executive order on immigration as well as his push to move forward on the construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines.

The president’s controversial executive order on immigration bars entry into the U.S. for people from seven predominantly Muslim countries and been meet with protests in several cities.

The demonstrators began gathering on Monday evening at City Hall as Columbus Mayor Andy Ginther announced that the city would continue to accept refugees regardless of their immigration status.

“Our immigrant population is part of the fabric of what makes Columbus so vibrant,” Ginther said in a statement. “They are our neighbors. We must not turn our backs on them, now or ever.”

Columbus is now one of a group of so-called sanctuary cities that do not always fully cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.

Ginther said he will issue an order of his own this week that will “support the resettlement of refugees to Columbus and prohibit the detention of anyone unless a warrant exists or a criminal violation was observed,” according to the city’s website.

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Church Members Say Priest’s Alleged Murderer Should Be Spared Death Penalty

iStock/Thinkstock(AUGUSTA, Ga.) — Members of a Florida church are asking prosecutors to spare the life a man who is accused of killing their beloved priest.

Members of the Diocese of St. Augustine say the victim, Father Rene Robert, signed a “Declaration of Life,” a personal statement of opposition to the death penalty before he was fatally shot last Spring, according to ABC News affiliate WTLV.

Steven Murray, the 28-year-old murder suspect, allegedly shot Robert to death in April and then lead police to his body in a wooded area in Georgia, according to WTLV.

Augusta-Richmond County District Attorney Ashley Wright has filed notice that she plans to seek the death penalty, but members of the diocese are traveling to Georgia Tuesday with the hopes of changing her mind.

The church members said the declaration, which they say was written and signed by Robert himself, should be honored.

“There is no need to kill the person even if he deserved that, there is no need,” Bishop Felipe Estevez told WTLV.

Several Bishops and Clergy members are planning to hold a news conference outside of the Augusta county courthouse Tuesday at 11 a.m. local time.

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Trump Fires Acting Attorney General Sally Yates for Refusing to Defend Immigration Order

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The acting U.S. Attorney General, Sally Yates, was relieved from her duties Monday night hours after she refused to defend President Trump’s executive order regarding immigration because she is not convinced it is “lawful,” according to a letter.

In a statement, the White House said Yates “betrayed the Department of Justice” and was “weak on borders” and said she was being replaced by Dana Boente, the U.S. Attorney General for the Eastern District of Virginia.

“Ms. Yates is an Obama Administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration,” the White House statement said. “It is time to get serious about protecting our country. Calling for tougher vetting for individuals travelling from seven dangerous places is not extreme. It is reasonable and necessary to protect our country.”

In the letter, Yates wrote: “At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the Executive Order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the Executive Order is lawful.”

“Consequently, for as long as I am the Acting Attorney General, the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defense of the Executive Order, unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so.”

Trump’s order, which went into effect Friday, affects immigration from seven countries that have predominantly Muslim populations, temporarily bans certain travelers and places indefinite restrictions on Syrian refugees.

The order sparked protests at airports across the country, as well as legal action. A federal judge issued a stay on part of the order regarding deportations.

Yates, who was nominated by former President Obama and confirmed in May 2015, wrote that the “order has now been challenged in a number of jurisdictions.”

“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 wrote. “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.”

She also wrote that the Office of Legal Counsel’s review of the order “does not address whether any policy choice embodied in an Executive Order is wise or just.”

Before Trump signed the executive order, DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel offered the White House a “narrow” assessment of whether the orders were illegal on their face, according to a Justice Department official.

“Through administrations of both parties, the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) has consistently been asked by the White House to review Executive Orders for form and legality before they are issued. That review is limited to the narrow question of whether, in OLC’s view, a proposed Executive Order is on its face lawful and properly drafted. OLC has continued to serve this traditional role in the present administration,” the DOJ official said a statement.

The office’s legal review is generally conducted without the involvement of DOJ leadership, and OLC’s legal review “does not address the broader policy issues inherent in any executive order,” the statement continued.

According to a DHS official, as of Sunday night, there were 735 encounters at ports of entry related to the executive order and no one remains detained.

In addition, there was confusion over whether or not the executive order applied to green card holders from the countries, until DHS Sec. John Kelly issued a statement Sunday, ordering that the entry of lawful permanent residents was in “the national interest,” allowing those people to enter the U.S. absent any “significant derogatory information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare.”

After Yates’ letter was released, Trump Tweeted on Monday night that the “Democrats are delaying my cabinet picks for purely political reasons. They have nothing going but to obstruct. Now have an Obama A.G.”

And on MSNBC, White House adviser Stephen Miller said that the acting attorney general’s memo is a “demonstration of how politicized our legal system has become” and defended the president’s authority to determine who is allowed to enter the country.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer defended the implementation of the president’s immigration executive order during his press briefing Monday, telling ABC News’ Cecilia Vega that the interests of national security outweighed the uncertainty that was caused to those who were stuck in limbo when they arrived in the U.S.

“Coming into this country is a privilege, and be able to come to America is a privilege not a right and it is our duty and it is the president’s goal to make sure that everyone who comes to this country to the best of our ability is here because they want to enjoy this country and come in peacefully and so he takes that obligation extremely seriously,” he said.

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Acting Attorney General Sally Yates Relieved After Refusing to Defend Trump Immigration Order

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The acting U.S. Attorney General, Sally Yates, was relieved from her duties Monday night hours after she refused to defend President Trump’s executive order regarding immigration because she is not convinced it is “lawful,” according to a letter.

In a statement, the White House said Yates “betrayed the Department of Justice” and was “weak on borders” and said she was being replaced by Dana Boente, the U.S. Attorney General for the Eastern District of Virginia.

“Ms. Yates is an Obama Administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration,” the White House statement said. “It is time to get serious about protecting our country. Calling for tougher vetting for individuals travelling from seven dangerous places is not extreme. It is reasonable and necessary to protect our country.”

In the letter, Yates wrote: “At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the Executive Order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the Executive Order is lawful.”

“Consequently, for as long as I am the Acting Attorney General, the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defense of the Executive Order, unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so.”

Trump’s order, which went into effect Friday, affects immigration from seven countries that have predominantly Muslim populations, temporarily bans certain travelers and places indefinite restrictions on Syrian refugees.

The order sparked protests at airports across the country, as well as legal action. A federal judge issued a stay on part of the order regarding deportations.

Yates, who was nominated by former President Obama and confirmed in May 2015, wrote that the “order has now been challenged in a number of jurisdictions.”

“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 wrote. “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.”

She also wrote that the Office of Legal Counsel’s review of the order “does not address whether any policy choice embodied in an Executive Order is wise or just.”

Before Trump signed the executive order, DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel offered the White House a “narrow” assessment of whether the orders were illegal on their face, according to a Justice Department official.

“Through administrations of both parties, the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) has consistently been asked by the White House to review Executive Orders for form and legality before they are issued. That review is limited to the narrow question of whether, in OLC’s view, a proposed Executive Order is on its face lawful and properly drafted. OLC has continued to serve this traditional role in the present administration,” the DOJ official said a statement.

The office’s legal review is generally conducted without the involvement of DOJ leadership, and OLC’s legal review “does not address the broader policy issues inherent in any executive order,” the statement continued.

According to a DHS official, as of Sunday night, there were 735 encounters at ports of entry related to the executive order and no one remains detained.

In addition, there was confusion over whether or not the executive order applied to green card holders from the countries, until DHS Sec. John Kelly issued a statement Sunday, ordering that the entry of lawful permanent residents was in “the national interest,” allowing those people to enter the U.S. absent any “significant derogatory information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare.”

After Yates’ letter was released, Trump Tweeted on Monday night that the “Democrats are delaying my cabinet picks for purely political reasons. They have nothing going but to obstruct. Now have an Obama A.G.”

And on MSNBC, White House adviser Stephen Miller said that the acting attorney general’s memo is a “demonstration of how politicized our legal system has become” and defended the president’s authority to determine who is allowed to enter the country.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer defended the implementation of the president’s immigration executive order during his press briefing Monday, telling ABC News’ Cecilia Vega that the interests of national security outweighed the uncertainty that was caused to those who were stuck in limbo when they arrived in the U.S.

“Coming into this country is a privilege, and be able to come to America is a privilege not a right and it is our duty and it is the president’s goal to make sure that everyone who comes to this country to the best of our ability is here because they want to enjoy this country and come in peacefully and so he takes that obligation extremely seriously,” he said.

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Ohio Community Rallies Behind Mom Allegedly Targeted by Anti-Muslim Flyers Labeling Her a ‘Terrorist’

iStock/Thinkstock(MASON, Ohio) — An Ohio community came together on Sunday to rally for a woman who was allegedly the target of anti-Muslim flyers posted around her neighborhood.

Over 300 people from all across the state of Ohio rallied in front of Mason Community Center in solidarity with Rawd Saleh, 41, Saleh said. The rally was in reaction to flyers allegedly posted around Saleh’s neighborhood with her address illustrated on a map and a picture of her titled “neighborhood terrorist warning.”

“As Americans, if we see suspicious activity, we should tell the authorities,” Saleh told ABC News. “I don’t see any other suspicion that this person could’ve had other than I wear hijab.”

Saleh said she has lived in Ohio for 35 years and Mason for a year. When the mother of three returned home last week after a weekend out of town, her neighbors notified her immediately about the alleged flyer labeling her as a terrorist and said that they had contacted the police, she said.

Saleh said that she was assured by her neighbors that they did not feel threatened by her and supported her living in the community.

Plans for the rally came about when Saleh was contacted by Sarah Martin, a nurse who said she received a flyer in her mailbox, and Martin’s friend Cyndi Ritter, a licensed therapist.

All three met over coffee for the first time Friday discussing how to react to the alleged flyers in Mason and ultimately decided to organize a rally at the Mason Community Center for two days later, inviting their friends on Facebook.

Ritter, 31, told ABC News that she felt empowered after attending the Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21, adding that the march encouraged her to “[not] go back to your communities and just stay silent.”

“I think that when a hate crime like this happens that you need to have a swift reaction,” Ritter said, highlighting that this is only the third rally or demonstration she has been involved in, “which is why we had the rally two days after we planned it.”

As a woman born in Jerusalem to a Palestinian father and Turkish mother, Saleh said that she was shocked by the incident because Mason is such a diverse neighborhood.

Mason police are still investigating to determine who allegedly made and distributed the flyers.

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Acting US Attorney General Will Not Defend Trump Immigration Order

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The acting U.S. attorney general, Sally Yates, said she will not defend President Trump’s executive order regarding immigration because she is not convinced it is “lawful,” according to a letter.

“At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the Executive Order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the Executive Order is lawful,” Yates wrote.

“Consequently, for as long as I am the Acting Attorney General, the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defense of the Executive Order, unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so.”

Trump’s order, which affects immigration from seven countries that have predominantly Muslim populations, temporarily bans certain travelers and places indefinite restrictions on Syrian refugees.

The order sparked protests at airports as well as legal action. A federal judge stayed part of the order regarding deportations.

Yates, who was nominated by former President Obama and confirmed in May 2015, wrote that the “order has now been challenged in a number of jurisdictions.”

She also wrote that the Office of Legal Counsel’s review of the order “does not address whether any policy choice embodied in an Executive Order is wise or just.”

“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 wrote. “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.”

This is a developing story. Please check back in for updates.

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Bobcat Missing from Smithsonian’s National Zoo

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — A bobcat has gone missing after apparently escaping its enclosure at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, the zoo said Monday.

Ollie, a 25-pound female bobcat, went missing Monday morning from her enclosure at the Washington, D.C., zoo. Ollie was last seen at 7:30 a.m. Monday during a routine check; however, when zookeepers returned just over three hours later for their morning feeding, Ollie was nowhere to be found.

The zoo was quick to note that the bobcat poses no imminent danger to guests or the general public.

Zoo staff members believe that Ollie is likely to return to the area of her enclosure as she seeks food and shelter on familiar grounds. The area around the bobcat exhibit has been closed since Ollie was discovered missing this morning.

Officials are asking the public not to approach Ollie if she is discovered and to instead call 202-633-7362 to report her location.

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White House Tells Dissenting Diplomats ‘Get With the Program’ or ‘Go’

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — White House spokesman Sean Spicer dismissed concerns being raised by career diplomats over President Donald Trump’s new executive order restricting immigration from several predominantly Muslim countries, telling them to “either get with the program, or they can go.”

ABC News first reported Monday morning that dozens of American foreign service officers and other diplomats around the world were preparing to file a formal objection to the executive order, which restricts Syrian refugees and, on a temporary basis, other immigrants from entering the United States.

Scores more could end up signing onto the memo before it’s transmitted to Washington, although the time frame for filing is not clear.

Use of dissent memos is so serious that former Secretary of State Warren Christopher warned diplomats in 1995 that they are “handled at the highest levels of government” and should be “well-grounded and well argued.” According to a State Department official, the agency usually receives four or five dissent memos each year, but it is abnormal for one to be received only two weeks into a new administration.

At the briefing with White House reporters this afternoon, Spicer suggested the concerned diplomats “don’t understand the president’s goal.”

“This is about the safety of America, and there is a reason that the majority of Americans agree with the president,” Spicer said. “These steps are frankly common sense steps … to make sure we’re never looking in the rear view mirror saying we should have done something like this.”

But in a draft of the memo reviewed by ABC News, concerned diplomats say Trump’s executive order will actually do more harm than good to U.S. homeland security.

“This ban … will not achieve its stated aim to protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States,” warned the draft memo.

Instead, the executive order will expand anti-American sentiment and “immediately sour relations” with key allies in the fight against terrorism, particularly many of the countries whose citizens are now blocked from traveling to the United States, according to the draft.

Trump’s order indefinitely blocks Syrian refugees from coming to the United States, and it suspends immigration from six other countries still struggling to defeat terrorists within their borders: Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Iran, Libya and Sudan.

The governments of those largely Muslim countries see the White House move as an attack on Islam. By “alienating” such allies, the U.S. government will lose access to valuable intelligence and counterterrorism resources, the draft said.

At Monday’s White House briefing, Spicer said concerns and challenges with implementing President Trump’s new executive order have “been blown way out of proportion and exaggerated.”

“I know the president appreciates the people who serve this nation and the public servants, but at some point — if they have a big problem with the policies that he’s instituting to keep the country safe — then that’s up to them to question whether or not they want to stay,” Spicer added.

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How the Government Strives to Tell If a Refugee Applicant Is Lying About Being a Christian

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — President Trump said on Friday that persecuted Syrian Christian refugees would receive priority when seeking asylum in the United States, telling the Christian Broadcasting Network in an interview that Christians in Syria have been treated unfairly in the refugee process.

Government workers can likely determine whether those seeking refugee status in the U.S. are lying about their religious affiliations, but falsehoods can still occasionally slip through the vetting process, immigration experts tell ABC News.

“They’ve been horribly treated. Do you know if you were a Christian in Syria, it was impossible, at least very tough, to get into the United States? If you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible and the reason that was so unfair, everybody was persecuted in all fairness, but they were chopping off the heads of everybody but more so the Christians. And I thought it was very, very unfair. So, we are going to help them,” Trump said in a clip of the interview released Friday.

Trump did not give any examples or cite evidence to support his claim that it’s more difficult for Christians in Syria to come into the country than Muslims in Syria.

But how can authorities tell whether someone is actually a Christian or not?

A refugee candidate’s life is scrutinized during an extensive and thorough vetting process, according to multiple immigration experts.

In the past, refugee applicants were most likely asked about their religious affiliations only if they had applied for resettlement for reasons of religious persecution, said Denise Gilman, director of the Immigration Clinic at the University of Texas Law School.

If they had applied citing fear of persecution based on any of the other four categories — race, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group — then the topic of religion may have not even been a factor in the interview process, said Royce Murray, policy director for the American Immigration Council.

“If it’s a part of the claim, it matters,” Murray told ABC News. “If it’s not a part of the claim, it doesn’t matter.”

Department of Homeland Security officers who conduct the interviews are highly trained to detect inconsistencies, Murray said. If someone is seeking refugee status for religious persecution — and is claiming to be a Christian — the interviewer may ask for evidence supporting his or her claim, Murray said. These can include an affidavit from a church leader, work history and families’ statements.

Often, if someone is a Christian minority in his or her country, his or her religion will be stated on the birth certificate, Gilman said.

For some refugee applicants, providing evidence may prove difficult, because the refugee applicants may have fled under “very urgent conditions” and may not have access to lengthy documentation from every aspect of their lives, Gilman said. But it’s up to the DHS officer to verify as much of the information as possible.

DHS officers have to be “very, very attuned to what they’re hearing” in order to make a judgment they’re comfortable with, said Sam Witten, a 22-year veteran of the State Department and principle deputy assistant secretary of state for refugee programs from 2007 to 2010.

“It puts a burden on the interviewer to get it right — to know which questions to ask — to listen,” Witten told ABC News.

While DHS officers can ask refugee applicants whatever questions they feel are appropriate, typically, interview questions are heavily security-related, Witten said. Going forward, each DHS interviewer will be tasked “to ask enough questions to figure out — to their satisfaction — whether the person meets the requirement that the president is imposing — that they are a Christian,” Witten speculated.

It is not clear if being Christian is the only requirement for the prioritization.

“This is all uncharted territory,” said Austin-based immigration lawyer Jason Finkelman. “We’re all trying to figure out what’s going on.”

The vetting process is already so “extreme,” that Finkelman said he doesn’t know how much more extreme it can get.

Witten echoed that sentiment, saying that DHS and the State Department are already so “thorough” and “careful,” calling the vetting process in place already “very extensive.”

“No one wants a refugee to come into the country who would threaten national security,” he said.

Trump’s intention to prioritize persecuted Christians in the refugee process could entice many to lie about their religious affiliation, Witten said, and Gilman said she wouldn’t be surprised if religious affiliation becomes a staple in the screening process going forward.

It is possible, but not likely, for the occasional falsehood to slip through, Gilman said.

“In general, those of us who work in the refugee process believe the vetting is so intensive and lengthy and extreme that there is unlikely to be a significant level of fraud,” Gilman said.

But still, it may be hard to prove whether someone is truly Christian, Finkelman said, adding that in the future, a religious test may be necessary to accomplish that.

“If confronted by someone who is a really good liar, they could fool anybody,” said Benjamin Johnson, executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “There’s no guarantees.”

In an interview on Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said appropriate vetting will be put in place to ensure that refugees are seeking asylum in the U.S. for “peaceful purposes.”

When asked if this vetting process would include a religious test, Spicer said “no.”

“What we’re going to do is make sure that people who have been persecuted for either religious or other reasons have an opportunity to apply and go through a vetting system that ensures they’re coming to this country to seek asylum, to seek a new life for themselves or their family, but to do so with peaceful purposes,” he said.

In 2016, 15,302 people who arrived in the U.S. from Syria identified as Muslim, while 93 people who arrived from Syria identified as either Catholic, Christian, Protestant or Jehovah’s Witness, according to the Refugee Processing Center, an agency overseen by the U.S. State Department.

During his campaign, Trump promised to cut down or stop the number of refugees entering the U.S. An executive order signed by the president last week stipulates how the refugee program will be reinstated in 120 days.

The executive order states that the refugee program will be suspended for 120 days, after which it will be resumed “only for nationals of countries for which the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Director of National Intelligence have jointly determined that such additional procedures are adequate to ensure the security and welfare of the United States.”

Trump’s executive order is a “fundamental violation of the constitution,” Johnson said. “As a matter of law, I’m not even sure that we can say that we can prioritize one form of religious persecution over another.”

Gilman expressed concern over Trump’s intention to prioritize Christian refugees because the program is “set up to give protection to those in gravest need.”

“The refugee and asylum programs are to protect the most vulnerable people on the planet from near or certain death,” Finkelman said.

Trump defended the executive order in a statement Sunday, saying that while “America is a proud nation of immigrants,” it will continue to show compassion to those fleeing oppression “while protecting our own citizens and borders.”

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