Former security heads say Trump’s order on immigrants ‘could do long-term damage’

Ten former top national security officials swore in a joint declaration filed in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday that President Donald J. Trump's executive order suspending immigration from seven mostly-Muslim countries endangers U.S. troops, disrupts counterterrorism operations and if allowed to stand would "feed the recruitment narrative" of the Islamic State."

"We view the Order as one that ultimately undermines the national security of the United States, rather than making us safer," said the declaration signed by two former secretaries of state, three former CIA directors, one former head of the Department of Homeland Security, one former national security advisor as well as other officials from both Democratic and Republican administrations.

To the contrary, the declaration continued, "It could do long-term damage to our national security and foreign policy interests, endangering U.S. troops in the field and disrupting counterterrorism and national security partnerships. It will aid ISIL's propaganda effort and serve its recruitment message by feeding into the narrative that the United States is at war with Islam."

The declaration was signed by former secretaries of state Madeline K. Albright and John F. Kerry, as well as former CIA directors Leon E. Panetta, Michael V. Hayden and Michael J. Morell, former homeland security secretary Janet A. Napolitano, who is now the president of the University of California, and former National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice, who also served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Also signing the declaration were former CIA deputy directors Avril D. Haines and John E. McLaughlin and former Deputy National Security Advisor Lisa O. Monaco. All ten officials served under Democratic presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama but three of them also worked under President George W. Bush, a Republican.

Attorneys for the states of Washington and Minnesota filed the declaration in their response to an appeal by the Trump Administration that is seeking to dissolve a federal judge's order in Seattle that put his immigration suspension on worldwide hold. The order suspended travel by immigrants from Syria, Iran, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Iraq for 90 days and refugees from all countries for 120 days while federal authorities conduct additional national security screening procedures.

The decision by U.S. District Judge James L. Robart is now in front of the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit appellate court and it could be scheduled for oral arguments as soon as today. Government attorneys were scheduled to respond to the latest filing by the attorney generals from Washington and Minnesota by 3 p.m. on Monday.

If the executive order is allowed to stand, the declaration of the national security officials said, it will "disrupt ongoing law enforcement efforts. By alienating Muslim-American communities in the United States, it will harm efforts to enlist their aid in identifying radicalized individuals who might launch attacks of the kind recently seen in San Bernardino and Orlando."

The order would cause a "devastating humanitarian impact" by creating "deep uncertainty" for tens of thousands of travelers who want to come to the United States for medical purposes, scholarly exchanges, funerals, and other activities, the declaration said, as well as disrupt students and other immigrants "who annually inject hundreds of billions of dollars into the U.S. economy."

The declaration said the executive order is unnecessary, especially in regards to refugees who "receive the most thorough vetting of any traveler to the United States."

"Reinstating the Executive Order would wreak havoc on innocent lives and deeply held American values," the declaration said. "Ours is a nation of immigrants, committed to the faith that we are all equal under the law and abhor discrimination, whether based on race, religion, sex, or national origin.”

Andy Furillo: 916-321-1141, @andyfurillo