State Department staffers go rogue in dissent memo over Trump's Muslim ban, which is "counter to core American values"

"Decades from now, we will look back and realize we made the same mistakes our predecessors," the staffers write

By Matthew Rozsa

Published January 30, 2017 5:17PM (EST)

 (Reuters/Jim Young)
(Reuters/Jim Young)

President Donald Trump's controversial ban on Muslim immigration is about to meet a new challenger — the president's own State Department.

"A policy which closes our doors to over 200 million legitimate travelers in the hopes of preventing a small number of travelers who intend to harm Americans from using the visa system to enter the United States will not achieve its aim of making our country safer," says a draft of the dissent channel memo that was obtained by The Washington Post on Monday. "Moreover, such a policy runs counter to core American values of nondiscrimination, fair play, and extending a warm welcome to foreign visitors and immigrants."

The memo compares Trump's ban on Muslim immigration to policies that discriminated against Japanese Americans during World War Two.

"Decades from now, we will look back and realize we made the same mistakes our predecessors: shutting borders in a knee-jerk reaction instead of setting up systems of checks that protect our interests and our values," the memo says.

The memo also points out that Trump's policy will harm America's relationship with Muslim countries, that beefing up visa and screening and improving cooperation between agencies that handle immigration would be far more effective than an outright ban, and that virtually none of the "vanishingly small number" of terrorists who came to this country on a visa hailed from the nations Trump has targeted in his ban (those nations happen to have business ties with Trump's real estate empire).

The memo, which was written and signed by mid-level and high-level officials, is being sent through what is known as the "dissent channel." This was established in the 1960s to guarantee that policymakers had access to views on the Vietnam War that deviated from the establishment consensus.

The current memo is said to be titled "Protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States," according to acting spokesman for the State Department Mark Toner, who added that "the Dissent Channel is a longstanding official vehicle for State Department employees to convey alternative views and perspectives on policy issues. This is an important process that the Acting Secretary, and the Department as a whole, value and respect. It allows State employees to express divergent policy views candidly and privately to senior leadership."

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Donald Trump Muslim Immigration Ban State Department