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Protesters Descend On LaGuardia As More Separated Migrant Children Arrive In NYC

Protesters gathered to welcome children separated from their families reportedly arriving at LaGuardia Airport
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Protesters gathered to welcome children separated from their families reportedly arriving at LaGuardia Airport via ACLU

Hours after President Trump signed an executive order that he claims will eventually reverse his policy of forcibly separating immigrant families at the border, a local airport was once again transformed into a site for enraged New Yorkers to protest the administration, and to lay down a welcome mat for the victims of the president's most heartless policies.

Late Wednesday night, in response to social media reports that migrant children were still arriving on flights from Texas, hundreds of New Yorkers descended on LaGuardia Airport, where they unfurled signs reading "Bienvenidos a New York" and sung Mexican folk songs as they waited to greet the kids. The spontaneous demonstration—reminiscent of last year's mass protest at JFK—capped off a day in which New Yorkers learned that at least 239 of the separated kids had been transferred to the New York area.

The protesters, gathered in multiple terminals, had trouble determining where the migrant kids were arriving from. But videos posted online show groups of young children wearing matching sweatshirts and carrying government-issued belongings as they walked through the gates. One video showed a group of girls silently packing into a van.

Many of those in attendance—about 300 people in total—arrived in response to calls from activists and advocacy groups like Make the Road, Bend the Arc, and United We Dream. Addressing the crowd, Stosh Cotler, the leader of Bend the Arc, explained, “Tonight at about 7:30 I received a text from a woman on an American Airlines flight, who saw about seven young people being transported from Texas to LaGuardia. This incredible woman . . . just saw something she knew was wrong and took action."

The crowd remained strong well into the night, and didn't full disperse until around 3 a.m. Early Thursday morning, one activist with Make the Road New York told the Washington Post, "We've been here since 10 p.m. when we heard there were young people on flights coming from Texas and other places. We’re here to welcome anyone who comes, especially young people.”

A spokesperson for American Airlines—which earlier in the day announced it would not be flying separated children on their planes—said that government officials had assured the airline that the teenagers on their flight were not among those taken from their parents. The Times reports that some of the flight attendants on board were "visibly distraught" after the children deplaned. “They lied to us," one flight attendant said.

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said the agency was looking into the matter.

The number of children who arrived in New York after the president signed the executive order is not known, and it remains unclear whether the federal government has any plans to reunite the separated kids them with their families. This morning, Senator Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to Trump calling on him to take "immediate action to reunify families":

On Wednesday, the leader of one of the facilities in which the children are staying told Gothamist that many of the kids arriving in her care have no family members in the region, and no way to connect with their detained parents.

"There doesn't seem to be a method for this," the person said. "We get a phone call from ORR and they say, 'Hey, we're arriving at JFK. We have three kids with us.'"

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