After a federal judge issued a stay on President Donald Trump's order to ban immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries, four more detainees were released overnight from John F. Kennedy Airport, where thousands had been protesting the order.
WABC 7 reports that the travelers were held "for several hours as Homeland Security enforced the president's immigration ban. The detainees included a 68-year-old woman from Yemen who was held for 13 hours. She had been coming to the U.S. to live with her son."
— NYC ImmigrantAffairs (@NYCImmigrants) January 29, 2017
Six other detainees remained in limbo, including a Ph.D. student at SUNY Stony Brook.
The detention of two Iraqi refugees, Hameed Khalid Darweesh and Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, on Friday brought their lawyers, as well as Representatives Jerry Nadler and Nydia Velazquez, to the airport to try to secure their and other detainees' release. In addition to thousands protesters outraged by Trump's ban (which also forbade green card holders from re-entering the U.S.), numerous lawyers, working pro-bono, flocked to the airport to assist:
LITERALLY on the ground. Volunteer lawyers are working pro-bono on a Saturday preparing habeus corpus petitions for detainees at JFK. pic.twitter.com/ddUeQBi7AY
— NYC Mayor's Office (@NYCMayorsOffice) January 28, 2017
Darweesh's detainment was particularly distressing, as he had been an interpreter for the U.S. Army shortly after the invasion of Iraq, making him a target in the country. His visa had been approved last week. (He was released in the afternoon, Alshawi was eventually released in the evening.) The ACLU's legal team, who pointed out that Darweesh and Alshawi had spent years working on their applications to event the U.S., told U.S. Federal Judge Ann Donnelly that anywhere from 100 to 200 people were being detained at international airports across the county. After Donnelly's ruling, families were able to reunite.
The airport protests added to the usual stress of air travel. At JFK Airport, the Port Authority temporarily shut down the AirTrain because protesters were using it to reach the airport:
— Nick Rizzo (@nickrizzo) January 28, 2017
Governor Cuomo then issued a statement, "One of the fundamental rights that is granted to the people of this country is the right to peacefully protest. I have ordered the Port Authority to reverse its decision regarding the JFK AirTrain. I have also directed the MTA and the New York State Police to assist with transportation and security needs to ensure the safety of all those participating. The people of New York will have their voices heard."
The crowd eventually swelled into the thousands, according to what one witness overheard on a Port Authority police walkie talkie.
Just overheard on a Port Authority police walkie talkie: estimated 5000 protesters.
— Ethan Chiel (@ethanchiel) January 29, 2017
The Taxi Workers Alliance also pulled its members from making pick-ups to stand in solidarity with those affected by the immigration ban:
— NY Taxi Workers (@NYTWA) January 28, 2017
The NY Times reports, "Earlier [on Saturday], at the White House, Mr. Trump shrugged off the sense of anxiety and disarray, suggesting that there had been an orderly rollout. 'It’s not a Muslim ban, but we were totally prepared,' he said. 'It’s working out very nicely. You see it at the airports, you see it all over.'"
The ACLU says that in spite of the stay, customs officials continue to enforce the ban.
Just off phone w/ Gen. Kelly. Assures me the court order will be complied with. All those still in airports expected to be admitted.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) January 29, 2017
Inhumane. Still 6 ppl whose families are being told they will be sent back by 1p. Lawyers working on it, but need to raise awareness. https://t.co/KJ4VLVmZCA
— Nisha Agarwal (@nishasagarwal) January 29, 2017
Update: The Department of Homeland Security issued this statement:
— Homeland Security (@DHSgov) January 29, 2017