Roiling protests may make it seem like President Trump went too far with his immigration crackdown. But here’s the truth as his ardent local supporters see it: Trump has delivered on his promise to upend the political establishment and unapologetically make America safer.
This was what they voted for.
With a few bold strokes of his pen, Trump has begun to fix a broken immigration system, they said, by temporarily halting immigration from seven nations former president Obama designated “countries of concern” because of the “growing threat from foreign terrorist fighters.”
The only surprise about Trump’s executive order, his supporters said, is that people are surprised.
“President Trump means what he says,” said Tom Mountain of Newton, who coordinated Trump’s outreach to Jewish voters in New England. “He said during the campaign that this was exactly what he was going to be doing. People shouldn’t be surprised. We’re not surprised. We knew he would do this the first week.”
And the chanting crowds of tens of thousands that crammed Copley Square and scores of other protests across the globe? Some Trump backers blamed it on Democrats still mourning the defeat of Hillary Clinton. Other Trump supporters said it was the work of anarchists and professional agitators who have been organized by billionaire liberal philanthropist George Soros or the Muslim Brotherhood.
Those well-choreographed protests, they said, do not accurately reflect the broader public sentiment.
In liberal-leaning Massachusetts, people are less likely to be vocal about supporting the president because they do not want to be characterized as anti-immigrant or insensitive to the needs of others, according to Amy Carnevale of Marblehead, who served as a Trump delegate at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
The same hesitancy held true during the campaign, Carnevale said, but Trump still amassed nearly 1.1 million votes in Massachusetts, which was one out of every three ballots cast. While his supporters expressed sympathy for the plight of refugees and regret for inconveniences faced by green card holders, they said it was a small price to pay to keep the country safe.
“There’s a silent majority that support it,” said Carnevale, who sits on the Republican State Committee. “These are people who live in Massachusetts. These are realtors and teachers who typically don’t talk about their political views but are privately expressing their support for this action.”
The administration’s rollout may have been rocky. Airports may have been chaotic. People may been delayed, detained, or turned away. But as car magnate and Trump supporter Ernie Boch Jr. tweeted before the immigration order about the president’s early moves, “The rocky mountain way is better than the way we had.”
Trump supporter Jay Dwyer of Lincoln said it probably would have been better if the administration had given two days’ warning before the temporary restrictions kicked in. People would not have been caught on flights or turned away at airport gates. But resolute and necessary actions can sometimes be messy.
“The term they use in Washington is inartful,” said Dwyer, a 67-year-old loan officer. “It would have been better, sure. But people are going to scream anyway.”
Other Trump enthusiasts, such as Lou Murray of West Roxbury, said Trump needed to act without warning because “you don’t broadcast your security measures to your enemies.” Murray praised Trump for “doing exactly what he said he was going to do, which is put America and Americans first. That includes the immigrants and visitors that are here. He’s worried about their safety as well.
“People are not thinking clearly,” said Murray, a 52-year-old life insurance agent and estate planner. “This is a security measure and not some wanton act of xenophobia.”
The measure has been condemned in some quarters as a religious-based ban against Muslims that has undercut America’s most treasured values. The president’s supporters and the White House noted that the executive order does not mention the word “Muslim” and does not include countries home to the majority of the world’s Muslims.
But instituting a Muslim ban was one of Trump’s campaign promises. He issued a statement Dec. 7, 2015, vowing a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
The executive order Trump signed Friday barred most lawful immigrants and other citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations — Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Syria — from entering the United States for three months. The action also indefinitely blocked Syrian refugees and suspended admission for all other refugees for four months.
Carnevale, the supporter from Marblehead, said that because Trump’s executive action targeted specific countries it was “perfectly appropriate and something most Americans support.” But Carnevale said it was also “very important that the president and the administration communicate to the world that this executive order is not a religious test.”
Supporters also rejected another criticism: None of the perpetrators of recent terrorist attacks in the United States has come from countries targeted by Trump’s executive order. Most hijackers involved with the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were from Saudi Arabia. The gunman who killed 49 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando was born in the United States to Afghan immigrants. The brothers who bombed the Boston Marathon were Chechen refugees.
No matter, they said. Trump does not want to wait for another attack before clamping down.
“Every few months in Europe there’s another explosion,” said Patrick J. Walsh of Quincy, who serves on Trump’s Catholic Advisory Committee. “We don’t want that in our country.”
Most politicians hem and haw about campaign promises. Not Trump. So far, his supporters find the president’s follow-through refreshing.
“This is what we wanted. Voters agreed that we had to have some drastic changes,” said Janet Fogarty of Weymouth, who also serves on the Republican State Committee. “It’s [happening] faster than I would have dreamed of or expected. It’s a shock-and-awe type approach. I’m glad.
“He’s going to be an amazing president,” Fogarty said.