Trump's Immigration Order Is 'Un-American,' Rep. Carson Says
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
When Sally Yates faced a confirmation hearing to serve as deputy attorney general in 2015, a senator asked her a question.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
JEFF SESSIONS: If the views the president wants to execute are unlawful, should the attorney general or the deputy attorney general say no?
SALLY YATES: Senator, I believe that the attorney general or the deputy attorney general has an obligation to follow the law and the Constitution and to give their independent legal advice to the president.
INSKEEP: Senator Jeff Sessions wanted to know if Yates would defy President Obama. As it turns out, Yates stayed on after Obama left and defied President Trump. She rejected the president's ban on refugees and visitors from seven majority-Muslim countries. She said she wasn't sure it's lawful.
The president said it is, and fired the acting attorney general. Democrats resisting the president's order include a Democratic congressman from Indianapolis. Andre Carson is one of two Muslims in Congress.
ANDRE CARSON: For me, being African-American and being a Muslim, I think, my reference point is quite different. I mean, having had to deal with deep suspicions and animosities growing up as an African-American and as a Muslim - so you have double the assumptions, double the suspicions - I'm deeply concerned. You know, I applaud the injunction against President Trump's executive order. And I call on the Democratic Party, the Republican Party to speak boldly against these things. To me, it's unpatriotic and un-American.
INSKEEP: Well, help me understand this, congressman, because you say that as a Muslim you're particularly concerned about this order. But I could hear someone from the administration shooting right back and saying this is not targeting all Muslims. It's not targeting all foreign Muslims. It's targeting visitors from seven specific countries. It's not a Muslim ban. Why do you feel that it is aimed at you or people of your faith in particular?
CARSON: Well, it's obviously a Muslim ban. President Trump himself has made anti-Muslim rhetoric a pillar of his campaign, so it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that he is now implementing these policies. Now, whether he says it or not, these restrictions are clearly aimed at directly affecting Muslims around the world.
INSKEEP: Congressman, how many refugees are in Indianapolis these days?
CARSON: We have thousands of refugees. Many are from Asia. We have a growing - one of the largest - Burmese communities, Syrian refugees. I welcomed a family several months ago.
INSKEEP: Well, let me put on the table, very frankly, some concerns that some Americans have about refugees. And let me just ask about the ones there in Indianapolis. As a former law enforcement officer, do you find them to be a security threat?
CARSON: Well, I think we have a very thorough vetting process. It takes 18 to 24 months, multiple agencies - including the State Department, Department of Homeland Security and others who are a part of this system. That's encouraging for me. I think what we have found and what the data suggests is that the larger threat comes from racial supremacist organizations in rural parts of society, in places like Indiana, other parts of the Midwest. But as it relates to the religious threat, I think we have to monitor more closely lone wolves.
INSKEEP: Lone wolves - a lot of security experts say that is the profile of a person to worry about. But you said something else there, congressman. You said you were concerned about a security threat from rural Americans. What did you mean by that?
CARSON: Well, not rural Americans specifically. I worked in rural America as a law enforcement officer. I said that these extremist groups who have a presence in these parts of our country...
INSKEEP: You're thinking of racist groups - is that right? - like white nationalist organizations.
CARSON: Oh, without question, without question - and so these groups are preying on disillusionment. They're preying on growing pockets of poverty throughout our country. And they're telling them these Muslims are the reason why you're not successful. African-Americans are the reason why. Latinos are taking your jobs.
INSKEEP: Let me ask one other thing along those lines, congressman. Setting aside extremists of any stripe and just talking about ordinary people, ordinary voters, some of the millions of people who voted in November, do you think that people in your city - Indianapolis - have a good understanding of Hoosiers just 20, 30 miles outside of town, in the farmland? And do you think people in rural areas have a good understanding of what's happening in your city?
CARSON: I think, you know - look, some of the best people you'll ever find in this country live in rural America, and I can attest to that being from Indiana. But my greater point is that the face of terrorism in this country has a Muslim face. It has an Islamic face. The greater truth is, even from data from our esteemed FBI, can attest that the larger threat comes from racial, supremacist organizations.
INSKEEP: Congressman Andre Carson of Indianapolis, ind., thanks very much.
CARSON: What an honor. Thank you.
INSKEEP: Now, after we spoke with Carson, we did a little fact-checking. PolitiFact's takes issue with his assertion that racial supremacist groups, specifically, are a larger threat than Muslim terrorists - depends on how you count. And PolitiFact says they can find no data to support his assertion.
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Editor's note Jan. 31, 2017
Following the broadcast of this report, Carson's office sent NPR the following statement about his comment regarding racial supremacist groups:
"This assertion was not based on a single statistic or on relative terror threat, but rather an assessment of the current environment. The congressman believes that when looking at relative membership numbers, hateful rhetoric, racially based hate crimes, and fatalities by right-wing organizations, it paints a picture of a larger threat to the safety of Americans and society as a whole. New America has an assessment of deaths from far right wing vs. violent jihadist terrorism. The FBI reported that in 2014, 47% of hate crimes were racially motivated. And the white supremacist group Stormfront has claimed additional interest in their content on the back of Donald Trump's recent comments. Additionally, it is important to remember that many attacks are inspired by an ideology rather than directed by an organization. Just as [the Islamic State] bears responsibility for lone wolf attacks in the United States, so do racial supremacist groups who inspire hate crimes. Taken together, he believes it is reasonable to say that the racial supremacist groups pose a more significant threat."