Thousands Rally Against Trump’s Immigration Ban

  • Hameed Khalid Darweesh, an Iraqi refugee and former translator for the U.S. Army, speaks to the press outside JFK International Airport's Terminal 4 on Jan. 28. (Photos by Julius Motal for Voices of NY)

On the afternoon of Friday, Jan. 27, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that banned entry to the U.S. for 90 days and refugee entry for 120 days for citizens of seven countries: Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia. The order unleashed mayhem across the country as airports struggled to deal with the particulars of the new system and became flashpoints for massive protests.

By Saturday, there were 12 people detained in JFK International Airport in New York. On social media, there were calls to protest outside of Terminal 4 where some were being held. Reps. Nydia Velazquez and Jerrold Nadler were among the first people on the scene to push for the release of those being detained.

“This is a matter of life and death,” said Rep. Velazquez about the reality faced by those in detention. “This type of action undermines our national security.”

Shortly after noon, Hameed Khalid Darweesh, an Iraqi refugee and former translator for the U.S. Army, was released from detention.

“This is humanity, this is the soul of America,” Darweesh said outside of Terminal 4, and expressed appreciation for all the help received in securing his release.

Darweesh traveled to America with his family on a Special Immigration Visa, which is a federal program to help Iraqi and Afghan translators for the U.S. Army move to the United States. His release was one of the earliest signs of hope on Saturday. As the day wore on, more people arrived at Terminal 4 to protest the ban and call for the release of everyone being held.

By nightfall, a federal judge in Brooklyn issued a stay against the executive order, which protected those already in U.S. airports from being deported. The lawsuit was brought by lawyers with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project early Saturday morning. The stay does not, however, overturn the rest of the executive order.

Confusion remained over the order. In an appearance on Meet the Press Sunday Morning, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus walked back some aspects of the order and said that it would not affect people from the seven nations with green cards, or permanent U.S. resident cards, from re-entering the U.S.

That did not stop a second day of protests both in New York and across the country. Thousands rallied Sunday afternoon in Battery Park to call for the executive order to be overturned. Slowly, they started to march up Greenwich Street. Chants of “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Donald Trump has got to go!” and “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here!” resounded up and down the street. Their destination was the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services building where they called for peaceful resistance.

Opposition to the ban continued to build Monday, as word leaked of a “dissent memo” circulating in the State Department. Meanwhile, former president Barack Obama released a statement in response to the ban through spokesman Kevin Lewis.

Julius Motal is a photojournalist based in New York City who has reported on stories in Turkey, Greece and the U.S. He is a 2014 graduate of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

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