A Texas congressman has joined calls for Donald Trump to be impeached for allegedly “exceeding his constitutional authority” with a temporary ban on refugees and immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Joaquin Castro, a Democrat serving in the House of Representatives questioned whether the new President had instructed the US Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP) to disregard court orders against his executive order.
“If Pres. Trump ordered CBP to ignore a judicial order he should be censured as a warning. If he does it again Congress should remove him,” Mr Castro wrote on Twitter.
“I have tremendous respect for the presidency but our Republic cannot tolerate a President who ignores direct judicial orders.#checksbalances”
He is one of a number of Democrats calling for Congress to investigate whether Mr Trump “intentionally exceeded his constitutional authority” to implement the temporary ban, which has sparked global protests.
Many demonstrators have called for Mr Trump to be impeached, but the prospect looks almost impossible with his Republican Party in control of both the House of Representatives and Senate.
Both houses would have to vote on the move, with the US Constitution requiring a simple majority in the House to impeach a President for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes or misdemeanours”.
To be removed from office, he or she must be convicted by the Senate by a two-thirds vote. Congressional elections will be held in 2018, when Democrats will be hoping to re-take control.
The executive order suspends the US refugee programme for four months, and Syrian refugees indefinitely, and bars visitors and migrants from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days.
Critics have labelled the policy a “Muslim ban” – an allegation denied by the President, who has called for asylum claims by Christians to be prioritised, earning a warning from the UN.
Gillian Christensen, a spokesperson for the CBP, denied the agency was directed to ignore court orders stopping enforcement of the executive order.
“CBP officers are not detaining anyone,” she told Buzzfeed. “Green card holders who arrive in the US have to go through secondary screening but that process is working smoothly and relatively quickly.
“Furthermore, visa holders who would be affected by the executive order are being denied boarding at their point of departure so they are not even making it into the US.”
Following chaos at airports over the weekend as US residents and visa holders were detained, the Secretary of Homeland Security, John Kelly, issued a clarification saying the “entry of lawful permanent residents is in the national interest”.
Lawyers have accused border agents of ignoring a judge’s stay against the order in attempts to deport legal visitors to the US, with dozens handcuffed and detained at airports.
The acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, was fired for publicly questioning Mr Trump’s policy and ordering government lawyers not to defend it, prompting comparisons to the Nixon-era “Saturday night massacre”.
Richard Nixon was on the verge of being impeached when the Attorney General and his deputy quit rather than carrying out orders to fire the prosecutor investigating him over Watergate.