Baltimore County’s executive has taken another strong public stand against President Donald Trump, this time through a statement with some personal family history.
Thousands around Baltimore have cried foul on President Donald Trump’s three-day-old executive order that bars entry to the United States to immigrants from seven countries (and indefinitely for immigrants from Syria). Many who oppose the ban have aptly pointed out that immigrants composed enter generations for the United States of America, and that many Americans families today are extensions of lines started by relatives who arrived here from somewhere else.
Kevin Kamenetz said in a statement today that he is here thanks to his grandfather, David Kamenetz, who emigrated from Zagar, Russia, to escape czarist rule in 1906. David Kamenetz settled in a Jewish area of Baltimore, married an American woman and ran Kay’s Tailors in the Hamilton neighborhood for decades, the executive said.
He never became a citizen, but he “paid his taxes and obeyed the laws. He practiced his religion, raised his family, and educated his four children. Grandpa loved this country as the greatest place on earth,” Kamenetz said.
Kamenetz also described the journey that his grandfather made past the Statue of Liberty to Ellis Island 111 years ago. “I would not be here today had the United States of America not lifted her lamp beside that golden door for my family,” he said. “This past weekend, Lady Liberty wept.”
The metaphorical tears Kamenetz references are for the more than 100 people who detained at U.S. airports after Trump signed his executive order on Friday. Lawyers worked for two days to gain access to immigrant clients, many of whom possessed green cards, being held by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents in airports. Federal judges promptly stayed parts of the executive order, preventing agents from legally deporting detainees.
Facing criticism on Sunday, Trump’s administration argued the order protects national security and said the number who were detained reflected a relatively small proportion of all travelers. The White House did rescind one part of the order that bars entry for green card holders from the seven named countries. All of those nations are predominantly Muslim.
Mayor Catherine Pugh this afternoon also issued a statement denouncing Trump’s order.
“The Executive Order banning refugees from entering the United States does not reflect the principles and core values of the America that I know,” Pugh said. “I want to reassure our residents, especially our immigrant community, that Baltimore is and will remain a welcoming city where all people are treated with dignity and respect.”
Pugh said last week before Trump signed the travel ban that Baltimore was a “welcoming” city, but not a “sanctuary” destination for immigrants. Trump had just signed another executive order threatening to withhold federal funding from so-called sanctuary jurisdictions that “willfully violate Federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States.”
Kamenetz has previously opposed Trump’s rhetoric and plans, even before he took office. In November, after Trump was elected president, Kamenetz declared that Baltimore County police would not be assisting federal immigration agents with forcibly boosting undocumented students from the United States. His public rallying cry drew the ire of other Maryland officials, including Rep. Andy Harris, a Republican, and Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler.
In today’s statement, he stood by his defense of immigrants on U.S. soil. “For nearly two hundred and fifty years, generations of immigrants have arrived on our shores and built the strongest nation in the world,” he said. “Every family has a David Kamenetz. This is our story. This is who we are and what we must remain.”
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