Changes in Us Immigration Policy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:33 pm on 30th January 2017.

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Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee 6:33 pm, 30th January 2017

I certainly agree with the hon. Lady. It is immensely important to establish the principles on which we will work.

I will explain why I think the state visit matters. I want the Prime Minister to meet President Trump frequently, and I want her to influence, persuade and challenge him. I also want President Trump to hear the views of people across Britain and to understand the strength of feeling about a country that we care about, but with whose actions we disagree. I am deeply worried that it will be not a normal visit by a Head of Government, but a ceremonial state visit involving our royal family, who for so long have united the country and whom we have tried to ensure are kept separate from politics and the deep, divisive arguments that countries across the world sometimes have.

By rushing into this state visit, I fear that the Government will do the opposite of what they want to achieve, and that instead of it being a celebration of friendship and shared values and a sign of increased co-operation, it will show huge divisions and our huge concern about what President Trump is doing. It will look like an endorsement of a ban that is so morally wrong and that we should be standing against.

We should also remember that the Executive order was signed on Holocaust Memorial Day. If ever there was a day to remember why we need to have the courage to speak out against prejudice and hatred, Holocaust Memorial Day is it. The Prime Minister’s words in the book of remembrance on Holocaust Memorial Day state:

“Our commitment to remember the Holocaust is about more than words—it is about action. It is about raising awareness, spreading understanding, ensuring the memory of the Holocaust lives on, and standing up to prejudice and hatred wherever it is found today…Together we will educate every generation to learn from the past and to take responsibility for shaping a better, brighter future in which through our actions, as well as our words, we truly never forget.”

That really is a responsibility not just on all of us, but on our Prime Minister, who was told on Holocaust Memorial Day about this ban, which targets Muslims because of their faith and turns away refugees who are fleeing genocide and persecution. Just as we have been advised so many times to speak out when we see prejudice and discrimination, there is an obligation on the Prime Minister to speak out now.

I, like many, feared that the decision to offer President Trump a state visit was too hasty, because we did not know what he would do or the direction in which he would take his country. Now that we do know, I urge the Prime Minister and the Foreign Office to work with the US Administration to find an alternative way and to make this an ordinary visit, so that they can hold discussions and debates, and so that we can put pressure on the United States to change its position. The United States is proud of its constitution and of the words on the Statue of Liberty, which proclaim:

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe…

Send these…tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

It is because we want our countries together to be able to lift the lamp beside the golden door that the Prime Minister and the Government should speak out now.