New York, United States, Jan 29 – US airports braced for fresh protests Sunday against Donald Trump’s temporary immigration ban, which a federal judge partially blocked by ordering authorities not to deport refugees and other travelers detained at US borders.
The ruling coincided with a wave of anger and concern abroad, including among US allies, and rallies at major airports across the United States.
“Victory!!!!!!” the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which had sued the government, tweeted after US District Judge Ann Donnelly in New York issued an emergency stay.
“Our courts today worked as they should as bulwarks against government abuse or unconstitutional policies and orders,” the ACLU said.
But the ruling, which did not touch on the constitutionality of Trump’s order, did not quiet protestors at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, where thousands had gathered.
“People are prepared to stand against this” said David Gaddis.
“It’s not surprising that people are mobilizing,” the 43-year-old said. “Every day he’s in office, it’s a national emergency.”
Mass protests also broke out at major airports, including Washington, Chicago, Minneapolis, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Dallas.
Trump’s executive order, signed Friday, suspends the arrival of refugees for at least 120 days and bars visas for travelers from seven Muslim majority countries for the next three months.
The exact number of those affected is unclear, but Donnelly ordered the government to provide lists of all those detained at US airports since the measure went into effect.
Sending those travelers back to their home countries following Trump’s order exposes them to “substantial and irreparable injury,” she wrote in her decision.
A second federal judge in Virginia also issued a temporary order restricting immigration authorities for seven days from deporting legal permanent residents detained at Dulles Airport just outside Washington.
– ‘We were prepared’ –
The ACLU’s legal challenge sought the release of two Iraqi men on grounds of unlawful detention.
One of them — Hameed Khalid Darweesh, who has worked as interpreter and in other roles for the US in Iraq — was released on Saturday after being detained the day before.
The List Project, which helps Iraqis whose personal safety is threatened because they have worked for the US, was outraged over Darweesh’s detention, warning it put American lives at risk too.
“I can’t say this in blunt-enough terms: you can’t screw over the people that risked their lives and bled for this country without consequences,” wrote the project’s founder and director Kirk Johnson.
Trump’s order follows through on one of his most controversial campaign promises, to subject travelers from Muslim-majority countries to “extreme vetting” — which he declared would make America safe from “radical Islamic terrorists.”
The targeted countries are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
“We knew that was coming — we were prepared,” said Camille Mackler, a lawyer who heads legal initiatives at the New York Immigration Coalition, one of the groups that quickly mounted the demonstration there.
“But we didn’t know when, and we couldn’t believe it would be immediate, that there’d be people in an airplane the moment the order was taking effect.”
– ‘Muslim ban’ –
According to Trump aide Rudy Giuliani, the president originally dubbed his executive order a “Muslim ban,” and asked the former New York mayor to show him “the right way to do it legally.”
“When he first announced it, he said, ‘Muslim ban,” Giuliani told Fox News Saturday, adding that the seven countries were targeted because they are “the areas of the world that create danger for us.”
The State Department has said that people from the seven countries under the 90-day travel ban will be prohibited entry no matter their visa status. Only those holding a dual citizenship with the US will be allowed to enter.
The plan triggered a fierce political backlash at home and abroad, including from Trump’s fellow Republicans.
Orrin Hatch, the most senior Republican in the US Senate, spoke of America’s “legal and moral obligations to help the innocent victims of these terrible conflicts.”
Trump’s Democratic campaign rival Hillary Clinton chimed in on Twitter: “this is not who we are.”
Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat, wrote, “to my colleagues: don’t ever again lecture me on American moral leadership if you chose to be silent today.”
His tweet was accompanied by the now iconic photograph of Aylan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed up on a beach in Turkey in 2015 after a failed attempt to flee Syria’s brutal war to join relatives in Canada.
The rapid mobilization against the order suggests a protracted battle is shaping up between migrant advocates and Trump and his administration.
The battle could end up in the US Supreme Court, which has not ruled on this type of immigration issue since the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act.
– Anger abroad –
In Europe, French President Francois Hollande lashed the refusal of refugees, and called out to fellow EU members: “We have to respond.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel likewise condemned the restrictions, saying that however hard the fight against terrorism was, “it is not justified to place people from a certain origin or belief under general suspicion,” her spokesman said.
A spokesman for British Prime Minister Theresa May, who is seeking to strike up a friendship with Trump, said US immigration policy was “a matter for the government of the United States… but we do not agree with this kind of approach.”
On Sunday Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called Trump’s ban “a great gift to extremists.”
“#MuslimBan will be recorded in history as a great gift to extremists and their supporters,” Zarif said as part of a string of tweets.