By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Several relatives of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington criticized President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration on Tuesday, saying they did not want the memories of those killed used to justify harming refugees.
Trump last Friday banned travel into the United States by people from seven Muslim-majority countries, leading to protests, confusion and legal challenges.
"This is totally unacceptable," John Sigmund, whose sister, Johanna Sigmund, died inside the World Trade Center in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, told reporters on a conference call. "It goes against everything we stand for as Americans."
The text of the order specifically made reference to the hijacked plane attacks, which killed about 3,000 people. But the relatives who spoke on Tuesday pointed out that none of the Sept. 11 Islamist militant hijackers was from any of the seven countries named in Trump's order.
Trump's order halted travel by people with passports from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days, and stopped resettlement of refugees for 120 days. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, two from United Arab Emirates and one each from Lebanon and Egypt.
The White House has described the order as necessary "to protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States."
Sept. 11 family members said Trump's action would sow mistrust among Muslim Americans and hurt refugees from war-torn countries. Most of the relatives are members of September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, a group formed in 2002 that opposed the war in Iraq.
"I am actually sickened by President Trump's use of 9/11 in this executive order," said Terry McGovern, whose mother was killed at the World Trade Center. "Don't use our loved ones, and specifically my mother, to turn away refugees."
Not all Sept. 11 families may agree, however. Kathleen Ganci, the widow of a fire department official killed in the attacks, told The New York Times she supported efforts to restrict travel to ensure national security.
"There's many, many fine Muslim people in this world, but there's many many people who want to kill us, and we need to vet them, and we need to find out," she was quoted as saying.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; editing by Grant McCool)