The White House responded Monday to a State Department “dissent channel” cable critical of President’s Trump’s new immigration and refugee executive order by encouraging the officials to “get with the program” or find the exit.
“A policy which closes our doors to over 200 million legitimate travelers in the hopes of preventing a small number of travelers who intend to harm Americans from using the visa system to enter the United States will not achieve its aim of making our country safer,” the memo, first obtained by the Lawfare blog, states. “Moreover, such a policy runs counter to core American values of nondiscrimination, fair play, and extending a warm welcome to foreign visitors and immigrants.”
White House spokesman Sean Spicer rejected the criticism Monday, telling reporters during the daily briefing that the foreign-service officers “can get with the program or they can go.”
The dissent channel, created within the department during the Vietnam era, allows foreign-service officers an outlet to share their concerns about Administration policies without fear of retribution. The memos are generally distributed widely within the State Department to senior leadership and overseas posts and must receive substantive response.
Spicer continued to defend the Administration’s implementation of the Friday order, which suspended the U.S. refugee program for 120 days and banned travel to the U.S. without a case-by-case waiver for people from seven Muslim-majority countries. Addressing reports of a 5-year-old child detained because he was from one of the affected countries, Spicer maintained, “To assume someone because of their age or gender, that they don’t pose a threat, would be wrong.”
Facing mounting criticism from even Republicans on Capitol Hill over the order’s drafting and implementation, Spicer reiterated that congressional aides were involved in drafting the order. And facing reports that even Cabinet-level officials were learning of the order’s details only after it was released publicly, the press secretary argued that, “The people that needed to be kept in the loop were kept in the loop; the people that needed to be briefed were.”