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Barack Obama Praises Protests Against President Trump’s Immigration Ban: ‘American Values Are at Stake’

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Former President Barack Obama released a statement on Monday commending Americans for the widespread protests in response to President Donald Trump’s sweeping immigration order.

Obama, in his first public statement since leaving the White House, said he was “heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities around the country.”

“Citizens exercising their Constitutional right to assemble, organize and have their voices heard by the elected officials is exactly what we expect to see when American values are at stake,” he said.

Thousands across the U.S. and the world protested Trump’s ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries as travelers were detained in airports. Trump has justified the ban by comparing it to Obama’s 2011 policy on refugees from Iraq.

Obama in the statement said he “fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion.”

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Write to Mahita Gajanan at mahita.gajanan@time.com