Tensions over Donald Trump were high at the Friday meeting of the Tampa Tiger Bay Club.
The president’s recent travel ban on seven mostly Muslim countries and his executive order expanding the authority for individual immigration officers to detain and deport undocumented immigrants are two of the most explosive issues he addressed in his first month in office.
Pressure those events have engendered were reproduced to some extent the luncheon event at the Ferguson Law Center.
“No matter what your view is on immigration, I think we can agree that this rollout was a hot mess,” said Anna Eskamani, senior director of public affairs and communications for Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, in referring to the president ‘s executive order from three weeks ago which has been since been reversed by a federal judge in Washington state and stayed by the Ninth Circuit of Court of Appeals.
Colonel Jim Waurishuk served in the U.S. Air Force as a senior intelligence and joint political-military affairs officer for over 30 years, spending time in Iraq, Afghanistan and over 60 other countries. He noted that the seven countries named in Trump’s executive order were initially singled out with a law that President Obama signed back in December of 2015, a talking point made at the time by Trump supporters.
Waurishuk also said that the public needs to stop looking at immigration so emotionally, and more from the standpoint of common sense and logic.
“We put a face of an illegal immigrant as being someone who is Latino or Hispanic,” he said. “We put the face of a refugee as someone who is Muslim, but we don’t [with] people coming from all over the world, from South Asia to Central Asia, from Europe, from Africa.”
“We have to address it like it really is, rather than based on an emotional aspect.”
Waurishuk also echoed Trump supporters when he said that the controversial executive order never included the word “ban.”
However, critics at the time noted that both the president and press secretary Sean Spicer called it just that.
It was also inescapable that one of candidate Trump’s most controversial statements ever in the campaign was when he called for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States in December of “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
The third member of the panel, Nestor Ortiz, is the chairman of the Hillsborough County Diversity Advisory Council.
Tiger Bay Board Member Don Kruse asked Ortiz that since racial profiling is already done throughout most of the world, what about doing it in America?
Ortiz emphatically responded that should not happen.
“There aren’t ICE agents targeting Canadian citizens,” he said. “They’re targeting black and brown communities, whether it be because they think they’re Muslim, or because they think they’re a terrorist, or they think that they can stop and frisk because they might have a gun or be a gang member. The majority of profiling directly impacts people of color. Which is an unfortunate reality. And I don’t say that lightly.”
“It is nice to be white in America,” Ortiz continued, “because these are things that do not apply to you, and I’m not saying that you have anything to apologize for, but just know that is our reality.”
“So should profiling be happening? No, not unless it happens to everyone, but unfortunately it does not.”
Things got a little tense when a white woman (only identified as Brooke) remarked that there was an imbalance on the panel, with “two people of color” debating the issues on the progressive side and only a single white conservative on the other.
Tiger Bay Club head Yvonne Fry said she had made a “great effort” to get another conservative on the panel, with no success.
A few minutes later, a woman sitting next to her named Kathy Brown referred to the “stark division” in the nation between liberals and conservatives. She said that conservatives like herself felt as despondent as liberals now do under President Trump, but “conservatives don’t go out on the street and riot.”
To buttress her argument, Brown said that the Obama administration had put “restrictions on religion, telling Chaplains what they said and couldn’t say.”
Ortiz disagreed with the comparison, saying what Trump is doing to Muslims and undocumented immigrants is something that Obama never did to Christians.
“We have the potential of losing out homes and our livelihoods,” he said, “and that wasn’t a reality for people when Obama was the president. It just wasn’t. When you say we took away religious freedoms? That didn’t happen. Obama was not saying go round up Christians.”
After hearing public comment from dozens of people earlier this month, The Hillsborough County Diversity Advisory Council recommended that the Board of County Commissioners made Hillsborough a sanctuary county.
A woman at Friday’s forum said that because the Trump administration threatened to withhold federal funds to such local governments who do that, would it truly be worth the effort?
(BOCC Chair Stacy White already said he has no intention of approving such a decision).
Ortiz said yes, it would be worth it; Eskamani said that working for Planned Parenthood, she is experienced in being threatened with the loss of federal funding.
One interesting side note to the proceedings: In his introductory remarks, Waurishuk said he had worked with Gen. Michael Flynn, who earlier this week resigned as Trump’s National Security Adviser. When attorney
When attorney Gary Dolgin commented on the circumstances leading to Flynn’s resignation later in the hour, Waurishuk hinted that he believed the general got a raw deal.
“Every national security advisor is allowed to do what he’s done,” he said. “There’s a period called the transition period from Nov. 9 to January 20 where anybody is brought on starts to do his job. They don’t wait until January 20 to start doing their job.”
Waurishuk went on to say the administration received more than 50 calls from world leaders, all with some sort of agenda.
“He said in 10 or 15 or 20 days, we will look at that once we’re in office, being as cordial and polite as possible in saying what he did,” Waurishuk told the audience, referring to Flynn’s actual dialogue (a transcript has not yet been published).
He also told Dolgin that he would need to follow up with him after the meeting.
“I’ll talk to you privately on that because I’m not at bay,” Waurishuk said. “It’s totally different, but it was done for media purposes. You’d be surprised at what really went on.”