As protests ensue in Norfolk – and across the country – against President Donald Trump’s controversial executive order to halt the arrival of immigrants and refugees from certain Muslim-dominated countries, some Southsiders say they are on board with the decree.
The Jan. 27 order has postponed travel from seven countries — Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days, barred refugee admission to the United States for 120 days and halted Syrian refugees from entering the country indefinitely.
In some cases, the order has left American citizens and visa holders, like one William & Mary student, stranded outside of the country. According to the Mace and Crown, Old Dominion University’s student-run newspaper, more than 50 students are directly affected by the travel ban.
Virginia Beach’s William Bernstein, 41, is a second-generation Russian Jew who has supported Donald Trump since the early days of his campaign, largely due to the president’s desire to have a working relationship with Israel.
While he was surprised by the executive order, Bernstein said he’s in favor of it because he believes it will strengthen the United States against the Islamic State group.
“It’s not about religion,” Bernstein said. “It’s about screening and vetting people who are not U.S. citizens.”
Bernstein said he isn’t convinced that the order will defeat terrorism, though, and worries about people who are already in the country who may have ill will against Americans.
He’s also concerned about the radicalization of people over the internet — people like 29-year-old security guard Omar Mateen.
In June 2016, Mateen shot and killed 49 people and wounded 53 others in an Orlando nightclub in the name of the Islamic State group. He is an American citizen who was radicalized by extremist information available on the internet.
“What does a terrorist look like?” Bernstein said. “We don’t know. They look like everybody else and some of them are already here.”
Local leaders also support Trump’s executive order, including 2nd District Congressman Scott Taylor.
On Monday, Taylor used Facebook Live to discuss at length his support of the order. Taylor said that he would not support a ban on Muslim refugees but he did not feel that the language of the executive order purposefully targeted the religion.
Referencing his Navy SEAL service, Taylor said that he served tours in the Middle East and saw firsthand that resources were not always available to vet fleeing refugees. To protect citizens, Taylor said, the new administration must take extra precaution to assess incoming immigrants.
“Many of us out there lock our doors at night. We don’t lock our doors because we hate the people who are outside. We lock our doors because we love the people who are inside,” Taylor told viewers. “My job and my duty, the first duty, is to protect the U.S. citizens.”
Though he supports the order, Taylor said that its implementation was flawed. Before instituting the ban, Taylor said, the necessary department heads should have been made aware of the order’s intent to prevent legal citizens from being affected.
“I think there was some incompetence, quite frankly, in this administration in implementing that policy,” Taylor said. “I hope they’ve learned their lesson and I hope that they won’t do it again.”
Taylor said that detained legal citizens have been released, and vowed to help protect any of his constituents that may have trouble traveling due to the order.
“If there’s anyone in my district, we stand ready to help them out anytime, any time of night, anywhere,” Taylor said.
At a rally in support of immigrants in Norfolk on Monday night, Billy Piffalo stood along the outskirts holding a sign that read “Muslim ban = fake news.”
“There is no such thing as a Muslim ban,” Piffalo said about the executive order. “The people spreading that message are intentionally trying to divide us. They are intentionally trying to rile people up and make them think they are fighting Nazis.”
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Dana Boente is also among Hampton Roads leaders who support the order. On Monday night, Trump named Boente the new acting attorney general, firing Sally Yates hours after she refused to defend the executive order based on its legality.
In a Department of Justice news release issued on Monday night, Boente condemned Yates’ refusal to abide by the executive order “based upon the Office of Legal Counsel’s analysis, which found the executive order both lawful on its face and properly drafted.”
Mariah Pohl contributed to this story.
Mayfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Poulter can be reached at email@example.com.