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Roundtable: San Diegans Cope With Trump Order; Veterans Cope With Wait Times

Trump's Executive Order; Veterans' Wait Times


Tony Perry, freelance reporter

David Wagner, science & technology reporter, KPBS

Tarryn Mento, Speak City Heights reporter, KPBS

Steve Walsh, general assignment reporter, KPBS

President's executive order causes chaos, confusion

On Friday, January 27 at the Pentagon, Donald Trump signed a sweeping executive order which:

-suspended entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days,

-barred Syrian refugees indefinitely,

-blocked entry into the United States for 90 days for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen,

-and barred green card holders from those countries from re-entering the United States.

The order sparked spontaneous protests at major American airports, including Lindbergh Field, LAX, SFO, JFK and others.

It also resulted in the spectacle of hundreds of lawyers sitting on airport floors typing furiously on their laptops, composing writs of habeas corpus to help those detained or kept from entering.

Acting Attorney General Sally Yates announced her department would decline to defend the order in court, convinced that, based on his own words, the president’s intent was to single out Muslims, which is unlawful.

She was fired.

Some Democrats called her a hero; some Trump supporters called her other things.

Judges jumped into the fray. U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte of Los Angeles issued an emergency restraining order forbidding government officials from enforcing the ban on behalf of 28 Yemenis, United States citizens living here and family members who remained behind in Yemen but had received immigrant visas to come to the U.S.

Confusion and chaos continued through the weekend. Travelers were detained in some airports and not in others; some travelers were questioned and allowed in. Others were put on planes back to the Middle East and subsequently ordered back again. Some were never allowed to board in the first place.

On Tuesday, the administration signaled that some of the temporary, 90-day bans on travelers are likely to be made permanent.

Related: Protesters block LAX traffic, face off with police as they rally against Trump's travel ban

The legal arguments for and against Trump's immigration ban

Trump's Talk About Muslims Led Acting Attorney General to Defy Ban

Local communities feel order's effect

Local refugees, students, academicians and scientists also felt the order's effect.

The San Diego chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union and the International Rescue Committee issued statements supporting immigrants and refugees.

Colleges and universities expressed concern for their students and faculty. SDSU President Elliott Hirschman issued a statement saying the university was proud of its diversity and its international students and faculty, but recommended against travel abroad for those from the affected countries.

Scientists and academics originally from other countries but now based here have become fearful of leaving the U.S. to travel abroad for research or meetings.

Some local high-tech and bio-tech companies expressed concern for their employees, but others have remained quiet so far.

Related: San Diego Groups Await Trump's Executive Orders On Refugee Program

San Diego Scientist Says Trump's Immigration Order Will Affect His Work, Family

What San Diego's High-Tech Industry Is (And Isn't) Saying About Trump's Immigration Order

San Diego veterans still waiting for health care

Scandalized by the long wait times endured by veterans seeking care from the Veteran’s Health Administration, Congress passed the Veterans Choice and Accountability Act in 2014, authorizing vets to see private doctors outside the system.

An investigation by KPBS and NPR has found that this goal was not met in San Diego or elsewhere.

Further, the investigation found no pattern in how the VA spent the $2.5 billion allocated by Congress. Every Southern California VA medical center was put on a priority list except San Diego, which has one of largest populations of veterans in the U.S. and also had the longest wait times for mental health services in the country in 2014.

Los Angeles, with even worse wait times, was on the priority list but somehow got fewer staff positions than even San Diego.

Every VA in the U.S. received some funds, whether they had significant wait times or not.

President Trump has nominated David Shulkin, undersecretary of health at the VA, to head the agency. Shulkin said in his confirmation hearing that it’s going to take years to get the wait times down.

Related: Veterans Choice Program Failed To Target Wait Times Even In Southern California

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