Barack Obama Criticizes Donald Trump’s Travel Ban, Says He’s ‘Heartened’ by Protesters

Still with us. Barack Obama released his first statement on Donald Trump’s presidency since leaving the White House on Monday, January 30, criticizing the controversial travel ban and expressing his support for those protesting the new policy.

“President Obama is heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities around the country. In his final official speech as President, he spoke about the important role of citizens and how all Americans have a responsibility to be the guardians of our democracy — not just during an election but every day,” the statement, released by Obama’s spokesman Kevin Lewis, reads. “Citizens exercising their Constitutional right to assemble, organize and have their voices heard by their elected officials is exactly what we expect to see when American values are at stake.”

Donald Trump and Barack Obama
Donald Trump and Barack Obama exchange words at the U.S. Capitol in 2017. Rob Carr/AFP/Getty Images

The statement also took a swipe at Trump’s claims that his travel ban was similar to Obama’s policies. “With regard to comparisons to President Obama’s foreign policy decisions, as we’ve heard before, the President fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith.”

While the statement doesn’t directly refer to President Trump by name, it’s clear the former commander in chief disagrees with the controversial businessman’s executive order. As previously reported, the order, signed on January 27, temporarily stops refugees and citizens from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S., and places an indefinite ban on refugees fleeing war-torn Syria. Trump also instated a new religious test for refugees from Muslim nations, which will presumably give an advantage to Christians and other religions over Muslims. (The Democratic 44th President of the United States previously denounced any ban on refugees after Republicans called for the U.S. to ban Syrian refugees following the 2015 terrorist attack on Paris. “That’s not American,” Obama said at the time. "That’s not who we are.")

Obama’s statement comes after stars also got political during the 2017 SAG Awards on Sunday, January 29. During the awards show, everyone from presenter Ashton Kutcher to Best Supporting Actor winner Mahershala Ali slammed Trump’s travel ban.

During his now viral acceptance speech, Moonlight actor Ali shared what he learned from working on the Oscar-nominated film about a gay youth, and how his relationship with his Christian minister mother taught him about acceptance.

“You see what happens when you persecute people, and they fold into themselves. … What I was so grateful about in having the opportunity to play Juan [in Moonlight], was playing a gentleman who saw a young man folding into himself as a result of the persecution of his community, and taking that opportunity to uplift him and tell him he mattered, that he was OK. And accept him. I hope that we do a better job of that,” Ali said, adding: “My mother is an ordained minister. I’m a Muslim. She didn't do backflips when I called her to tell her I converted 17 years ago. You put things to the side, and I’m able to see her and she’s able to see me. We love each other. The love has grown. And that stuff is minutiae. It’s not that important.”

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