The Cable

Democrats Struggle To Appease Base Angry Over Trump Immigration Ban

Supreme Court rally underscores Democrats’ weak hand.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (2nd R), Democrat of New York, US House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (C), speak alongside other members of Congress as demonstrators protest against US President Donald Trump and his administration's ban of travelers from 7 countries by Executive Order, during a rally outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on January 30, 2017.
Trump's executive order suspended the arrival of all refugees for at least 120 days, Syrian refugees indefinitely -- and bars citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days.  Protests are taking place at airports across the country in opposition to the ban. / AFP / SAUL LOEB        (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (2nd R), Democrat of New York, US House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (C), speak alongside other members of Congress as demonstrators protest against US President Donald Trump and his administration's ban of travelers from 7 countries by Executive Order, during a rally outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on January 30, 2017. Trump's executive order suspended the arrival of all refugees for at least 120 days, Syrian refugees indefinitely -- and bars citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days. Protests are taking place at airports across the country in opposition to the ban. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. Democratic congressional leaders struggled to appease a crowd of protesters gathered Monday night to voice opposition to the Trump administration’s ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Standing before a crowd of hundreds on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) and other lawmakers and immigrants assailed Trump’s immigration order as illegal and immoral. But the lawmakers stopped short of proposing specific remedies.

“What the president did is not constitutional. Indeed in the view of many of us, it is immoral,” Pelosi said.

“It’s against the principle of our nation. It makes us less safe,” said Maryland Senator Ben Cardin.

The Democratic lawmakers organized the rally to give protestors and party leaders a chance to coalesce behind a common cause: the plight of refugees and immigrants barred from the United States under Trump’s immigration executive order signed Friday. But there was a striking contrast between the energy of the speakers and protesters gathered in the 36-degree chill with signs decrying the ban.

At times, the lawmakers struggled to project their voices over the chants of hundreds of protesters yelling, “do your job,” and “no human is illegal.” It was not clear whom protesters were addressing — the court or the politicians in front of them. The case could end up at the nation’s highest court as battles have already taken hold in lower courts. A federal judge issued a stay of the order Saturday, after a lawsuit was filed by the ACLU, and at least 15 Democratic attorneys general have also vowed to fight the order in court.

President Trump lost no time pointing out the bad optics of the rally, tweeting Tuesday morning, “Nancy Pelosi and Fake Tears Chuck Schumer held a rally at the steps of The Supreme Court and mic did not work (a mess)-just like Dem party!

Democrats have been under fire recently from their supporters for greenlighting some of President Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees after viscerally opposing them. After protests and chaos over the weekend decrying Trump’s immigration executive order, the rally seemed a time for lawmakers to assure their constituents they were behind them.

But with Republicans controlling the House and Senate, Democrats’ only hope stands with bipartisan action or legal action. Some Republican senators have come out against Trump’s immigration ban, and Senate Democrats have vowed to filibuster Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, which he is slated to announce Tuesday night. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D., Calif.) proposed two bills Monday that would prevent the president from unilaterally banning groups of immigrants, but they aren’t likely to gain traction in the Republican-controlled Congress.

Despite the disconnect at Monday’s rally, some protesters were heartened to be out in the cold and more concerned with the courts than the Democratic leaders they were straining to hear.

Arlington residents Cadice Lopez and her four-year-old daughter Natalie came to protest out of solidarity for those affected by the ban. “We’re human,” Lopez said. “We believe that everyone deserves a right to a safe place to live.”

Photo credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Ruby Mellen is a fellow at Foreign Policy. @RubyMellen

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