Trump says immigration ban working ‘nicely’ as protests, detainments hit airports – USA TODAY
President Donald Trump’s signing of an executive action to bring sweeping changes to the nation’s refugee policies is causing fear and alarm for immigrants in the U.S. whose family members will be affected. (Jan. 27)
The fallout fromÂ President Trump’s temporary banÂ on refugees to the U.S. struckÂ withÂ full force Saturday, blockingÂ someÂ travelersÂ from boarding their planes overseas,Â forcing others to turnÂ around upon arrival in the U.S., and prompting customs agentsÂ at New York’s JFK Airport to detain at leastÂ a dozen people, including a former Iraqi translator for the U.S. military in Baghdad.
The growing chaos also sparked legal challenges, airport protests, condemnations from politicians and denunciations fromÂ advocacy groups.
Speaking to hundreds of demonstrators at JFK Airport, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.,Â called the ban ineffective,Â discriminatory, “disgusting,” and said it “goes against every ounce of our traditions from George Washington onward.”
“WeÂ are here to say itÂ shouldÂ be stopped and be revoked,” he said.
The reverberations began onlyÂ hours after Trump signed the executive order Friday thatÂ suspends the entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, halts the admission of refugees from Syria indefinitelyÂ and bars entry for threeÂ months to residents from the predominantly Muslim countries ofÂ Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.
In brief remarks while signing his latest executive orders Saturday, Trump maintained the order isn’t a “Muslim ban.”
âItâs working out very nicely. Weâre going to have a strict ban, and weâre going to have extreme vetting, which we should have had in this country for many years,” he said.
The banÂ includes green card holders who are authorized to live and work in the United States, according to Gillian Christensen, a Homeland Security spokeswoman,Â Reuters reported.Â It was unclear how many green card holders would be affected, but exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis, the news agency says.
At Washington’s Dulles International Airport, where a protest was mounted, Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said the state was considering taking legal action to challenge the ban.
About 50 people were detained at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, said Alia Salem, executive director for DFW Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Families have been waiting at Terminal D in anticipation of meeting relatives who been held up in U.S Customs.Â A representative with CAIR met with familiesÂ waiting for relatives. Some of them have beenÂ waiting for several hours.
At Philadelphia InternationalÂ Airport, two Syrian families, described as Christians, were briefly detained Saturday after arrivingÂ from Qatar and sent back three hours later. The families included two brothers, their wives and two children, according to a family member form Allentown, Pa.,Â NBC10 reported.Â “This is like a nightmare come true,” said Assali, who noted that the families had visas and green cards legally obtained months ago.
Mohammed Al Rawi, chief information officer for Los Angeles County, said on Facebook that his father was removed from a flight in Qatar as a direct result of the order.Â “My 71 year old dad is in Qatar boarding LAX flight to come visit us and and he’s being sent back to Iraq. Some US official told him that Trump canceled all visas,” he wrote.
Foreigners studying at U.S. universities who were part of study abroad programs were also stuck. Even Customs and Border Protection agents wereÂ confused about how to handle Trumpâs order and responding in different ways, he said.
In Cairo, seven migrantsÂ â six from Iraq and one from YemenÂ â were being escorted by officials from the U.N. refugeeÂ agency when they were stopped from boarding the EgyptAir plane, the Associated Press reported, quoting Cairo airport officials.
The authorities stepped in after contacting their counterparts at JFK Airport, where the plane was headed.Â The officials spoke to AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
Only one of the 12 picked up at JFK Airport was freed by Saturday afternoon.Â Hameed Khaldi Darweesh, who worked a translator for American forces for 10 years, had been detained overnightÂ following his arrivalÂ from Istanbul. He said he had feared he would be sent back to Iraq, which his familyÂ fledÂ because of death threats.
When asked by reporters outside the airport what he thought of Trump, DarweeshÂ said, âI donât know. Heâs a president, Iâm a normal person.â
He said he was focused instead on the lawyers who won his release.Â âThis is the soul of America,â Darweesh said. âThis is what pushed me to move, to leave my country and come here. America is the land of freedom.â
Among the 11Â still being heldÂ at the airport was another Iraqi refugee,Â Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, who was trying to join his wife and child. His wife worked for a U.S. contractor in Iraq as an accountant, was granted a refugee visa and is now living in Houston. Alshawi was approved for a visa to join his wife and their 7-year-old son on Jan. 11.
According to aÂ federal complaintÂ filed on behalf of two Iraqis beingÂ held at JFK airport, oneÂ attorney approachedÂ Customs and Border Patrol agents with a requestÂ to speak to his client, but was toldÂ they were not the ones to talk to about seeing him.
“Who is the person to talk to?” the lawyer asked, according to the complaint. The unidentified CBP agents responded:Â “Mr. President. Call Mr. Trump.”
According to one of the lawyers, Mark Doss, the pair had been approved for entry as refugees but were in the air flying to the U.S. night whenÂ the order was being signed.
A senior administration official said in a White House briefing SaturdayÂ afternoon that U.S. Customs and Border protection was working to provide waivers for the two Iraqis involved in the lawsuit.
âNo person living or residing overseas has a right to entry into the United States,â the official said, declining to be identified under the rules of the briefing. âThere is not a travel ban (from the seven countries). It is a cessation of most travel with case-by-case exceptions.â
The American CivilÂ LibertiesÂ Union and theÂ Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, say they have either filed lawsuits or will do so shortly challenging the ban.Â “We’ll see you in court, Mr. Trump,”Â tweeted David Cole, National LegalÂ Director for the ACLU.
Abed Ayoud, legal and policy director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said theyâve received more than 1,000 calls by midday Saturday from people who have been stranded or detained in the U.S. and abroad.
He said legal immigrants traveling overseas to attend funerals and visit family when the presidentÂ signed his order are now unable to return to the U.S.
âThe impact of what President Trump was looking for is in full effect,â Ayoud said. âComplete chaos.â
In Tehran, Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, said his country would respond by banning all U.S. citizens from the country as long as the U.S. policy was in effect, but would not includeÂ anyone who already received aÂ visa.Â In a statement, the foreign ministry called the U.S. orderÂ “a clear insult to the Islamic world, and especially to the great nation of Iran.”
In signing the executive order, Trump said the new administration needed time to develop a stricter screening process for refugees, immigrants and visitors.Â “I’m establishing new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America. Don’t want them here,” he said.
The executiveÂ order, which he said was aimed at protectingÂ Americans from terrorist attacks, singled out Syrian refugees as “detrimental to the interests of the United States.”
When the refugee program resumes, the executive order calls for changes to “prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.”
“We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country and love deeply our people,” TrumpÂ said.
CAIR said it will fileÂ a federal lawsuit Monday in the Eastern District of Virginia to challengeÂ the constitutionality of the order, charging its apparent purpose and underlying motive is to ban people of the Islamic faith from Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.
âThere is no evidence that refugees â the most thoroughly vetted of all people entering our nation â are a threat to national security,â said CAIR National Litigation Director Lena F. Masri. âThis is an order that is based on bigotry, not reality.â
Marielena HincapiÃ©, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, one of the groups representing the Iraqi men detained at JFK,Â said the lawsuit is directed solely at immigrants who have been caught in legal limbo following Trumpâs announcement. The lawyers are trying to expand it into a class action suit to cover the untold number of refugees caught in the same situation.
HincapiÃ© said they are planning separate lawsuits challenging the legality of Trumpâs executive actions on immigration, partly because they target majority Muslim nations. But she said for now, they simply want to resolve the cases of people who are being detained at airports. They are trying to get an emergency hearing before a judge this weekend.
âThese are people who already had a horrific experience of being a refugee,â she said. âThey left everything behind. And now, to find themselves in detention at an airport with no contacts, not knowing what can be done, only hearing little bits and pieces on the news about this executive order. I think folks are just scared and donât know how to respond at this moment.â