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Protesters Descend on Kennedy International, Demanding Release of Detained Travelers

Posted on Jan 28, 2017

  Protesters outside Terminal 4 at Kennedy International Airport in New York City. (Dan Miller / Twitter)

One day after President Trump signed an executive order severely limiting the entry of refugees from Muslim-majority countries into the United States, a throng of protesters gathered outside New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Saturday to demand the release of detained travelers. Hours later, a federal judge’s stay of Trump’s order handed the demonstrators at least a temporary victory.

In an article before the stay was issued, The Guardian reported:

Donald Trump’s executive order to close America’s borders to refugees and immigrants from some Muslim-majority countries caused chaos on Saturday, as people who had flown to the US were held at airports and elsewhere others were barred from boarding planes.

As confusion reigned, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security made a striking admission when she told Reuters people holding so-called green cards, making them legal permanent US residents, were included in the ban.

“It will bar green card holders,” wrote Gillian Christensen, acting DHS spokeswoman, in an email.

Protesters began rallying early Saturday outside the airport, where 12 people were being detained. One man, Hameed Khalid Darweesh, “was released Saturday afternoon without explanation from federal officials.” 

According to The Guardian, Darweesh “had worked in Iraq for the US government for 10 years.”

It’s not just a handful of protesters who jumped into action Saturday, however. Darweesh is one of two plaintiffs now represented by the American Civil Liberties Union in a lawsuit against the Trump administration. The other plaintiff, Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, “was coming to the US to join his wife who had worked for a US contractor,” says The Guardian.

According to an ACLU press release:

The lead plaintiffs have been detained by the U.S. government and threatened with deportation even though they have valid visas to enter the United States. One plaintiff, for example, worked for the U.S. military and his life was in danger in his home country due to that relationship. The other’s family was also threatened because of perceived ties to the United States.

Two members of the House of Representatives also attended the protest. They are Nydia Velazquez and Jerry Nadler, both of New York:

“This is the soul of America,” Darweesh said outside Kennedy Airport shortly after his release. “This is why I left my country to come here.”

“We have the Constitution. We have the law,” he continued. “No man can do whatever he wants.”

The Washington Post reports that “at least one refugee family is detained at San Francisco International Airport, but it is not clear how many refugees are currently held at airports nationwide.”

—Posted by Emma Niles.

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