“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,” Kevin Lewis, Obama’s official post-presidential spokesperson, said in a statement provided to Politico.
“President Obama is heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities around the country,” he continued. “In his final official speech as president, he spoke about the important role of citizen and how all Americans have a responsibility to be the guardians of our democracy—not just during an election but every day.”
It is the first time that Obama has put himself back into the public eye since leaving office on Jan. 20. Traditionally, a retiring president will remain mute and resist commenting on their successor’s opening period in office. Obama, however, released this statement just 10 days after leaving the White House. His position on Trump’s immigration ban echoes that of other high-profile Democrats.
The imposed travel ban was ushered in by Trump on Friday through executive order and bars citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. The order provoked mass demonstrations at airports and drew widespread criticism as U.S. Customs and Border Protection began to detain and deport travelers, even after a federal injunction issued late Saturday that ordered a temporary stay.
In a statement released on Sunday, Trump disputed claims that the travel ban was discriminatory and falsely claimed that he had merely followed Obama’s method.
“My policy is similar to what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months,” the statement read. “The seven countries named in the Executive Order are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror.”
Obama did not temporarily ban Iraqi refugees from entering the U.S., although his administration did delay the visa process for Iraqi refugees after two Iraqi men were arrested on terrorism charges in 2013.
In response on Monday, Obama dealt with this directly and denied any comparison.
“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 or religion,” Lewis said.