Protests Erupt at Airports Across the Country as Immigrants Detained
After President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Friday instituting an immediate ban on visas from seven countries—Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and Libya—many people arriving at U.S. airports or still on flights to the U.S. faced uncertainty.
Travelers, including legal U.S. visa holders, have since been detained at airports across the country, including New York City's John F. Kennedy International (JFK) and Dallas-Fort Worth International (DFW), among others. At JFK dozens of people were detained, according to TIME, and at DFW about 50 people were, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Airlines were not yet reporting flight delays at impacted airports, however ground transportation has been affected.
As immigrations lawyers, mayors, governors, and members of Congress have rushed to the airports to provide assistance to those detained, so have protestors. At JFK, hundreds of protestors gathered Saturday to demonstrate against the ban and to show support for the people held within the airport.
Those detained included Iraqi citizen Hameed Khalid Darweesh, who worked as an interpreter for the U.S. military in Iraq. Darweesh was released Saturday afternoon after the intervention of two members of Congress, Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-NY, and Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-NY, who are working to get refugees access to lawyers.
“When asked if the president's executive order supersedes a valid visa, [airport immigration officials] said that they're ‘trying to figure that out,’” said Nadler. “This whole thing is shameful.”
“This is not who we are. This is an affront to our American values,” said Velazquez, according to TIME. “We cannot go back to those dark days in our country.”
The executive order states that it is meant “to protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States.” Although Trump references the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the countries included in the ban are not where the 9/11 attackers came from. The executive order also states that “numerous foreign-born individuals have been convicted or implicated in terrorism-related crimes” since 9/11, an assertion not based on evidence.
The administration instituted the ban against the seven countries for 90 days in order to provide time for U.S. agencies to institute “extreme vetting” of immigrants, even though immigrants—refugee or otherwise—are already stringently vetted.
At DFW, the 50 people detained included a husband and wife arriving from Syria to visit their sons, one a student at, and one a graduate of, Southern Methodist University in Dallas, the Dallas Morning News reported.
“It's just not good for our city. It's not good for the state,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said. “This is not a solution. This is a foul insult to the rest of the country.”
Meanwhile Trump on Saturday tried to describe the scenes at airports across the country as successful, TIME reported.
“It’s working out very nicely,” he said. “You see it at the airports. You see it all over. It’s working out very nicely.”
Protestors also gathered at airports in Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, San Diego, Denver, Portland and more.
Late Saturday, a federal court issued an emergency stay on the ban for refugees and valid visa holders. However, the stay is temporary and the future of the ban is unknown.