Trump's travel ban leads to widespread protests, legal action
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Last Saturday, the Trump administration issued a controversial executive order. It blocked refugees and citizens from seven Muslim nations from entry into the United States. The order caused confusion at airports across the U.S., leading to strong protests and legal action.
The White House defended the order as a success. However, opponents moved rapidly to fight it. The measure led to the detention of more than 100 people who were in the process of arriving at airports across the country. All were carrying valid entry documents. Meanwhile, lawyers said twice as many travelers from these countries were denied permission to board U.S.-bound flights.
Backlash against the ban grew at airports and cities around the country. Thousands rallied in Los Angeles, California; Washington, D.C., Boston, Massachusetts; and other cities. Despite the seriousness of the ban, the atmosphere at many airport rallies was lively and cheerful. Whenever a detainee was released, he or she was greeted with applause from supporters. In Los Angeles, thousands of protesters chanted “Let them in!” and “Love, not hate, makes America great.”
Jacob Kemper, a 35-year-old Army veteran who served two tours in Iraq, held a sign that read, "I Fought Next to Muslims." He said he was infuriated to think soldiers he served alongside might be denied entry to the country. “I really don’t care about religion, but I really hate oppression,” he said.
Concerns Over Family Members Abroad
Shay Soltani works in technology and left Iran 40 years ago. However, she still has family members there. She joined Sunday’s protest in Los Angeles, she said, because she doesn’t know if she will be able to see them again because of Trump’s order.
Groups including the American Civil Liberties Union said they would ultimately press to have Trump’s order overturned as unconstitutional. In the meantime, the emergency stay issued by a federal judge prevented the government from removing any people who were halted upon arrival, said Lee Gelernt. Gelernt is deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Immigrants’ Rights Project.
For some, the executive order's second full day brought more anxiety and heartbreak. Hind Mohamed traveled to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport from New Jersey with her family, hoping to greet her mother, a green-card holder traveling from Sudan. Her mother’s flight had been on the ground an hour, but there was no immediate sign of her. “I’m just nervous,” Mohamed said, teary-eyed.
Her 16-year-old son, Awab Hassan, said Trump's executive order lumped together terrorists and innocent people. “That’s not justice — to see this country devolve, I’m not proud of that,” he said. “Where’s the feeling of taking people in, sharing the American dream?”
She Gets Plane To Turn Around
Some turned-away arrivals eventually were able to stay, often thanks to luck and quick legal help. Vahideh Rasekhi, a 32-year-old Iranian graduate student, was put on a flight in New York to return her to Iran. But she was able to contact volunteer lawyers via smartphone. Her plane turned back to the terminal, and she was released Sunday afternoon.
Even as the number of freed detainees grew, the wait was nerve-racking. Two Iranian friends walked nervously on a curb outside a terminal at New York's Kennedy airport. One of them, a permanent resident from Iran, had just heard that his wife would face up to five more hours of questioning after returning from a family visit.
Despite the judicial stay, Trump administration insisted enforcement of the order would continue. “Prohibited travel will remain prohibited,” the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement. It added that the government retains the right to cancel visas for reasons of national security. The directive blocked all refugee arrivals for 120 days. Refugees from Syria are blocked indefinitely. The executive order also suspended entry by people holding passports from Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Iran, Iraq, Yemen and Libya.
Later, Homeland Security officials clarified that the green-card holders from the affected countries would face additional checks when returning from trips abroad. But they suggested these travelers would not be denied entry unless a problem arose. That reversed indications a day earlier that the ban would include them.
Most Republicans lawmakers were slow to defend the Republican president's actions. Two of their leaders — Arizona’s John McCain and South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham — weighed in with a strongly worded joint statement. They warned against a “self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism.” They added, “Our government has a responsibility to defend our borders, but we must do so in a way that makes us safer and upholds all that is decent and exceptional about our nation."
Democrats To Push To Rescind Executive Order
Congressional Democrats turned up the pressure. They said they planned to introduce legislation to overturn the order. Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York called the directive “mean-spirited” and “un-American.”
Trump had tweeted Sunday saying the U.S. needs “strong borders and extreme vetting, NOW.” The president also decried what he called a “horrible mess” regarding immigration in other parts of the world, including Europe.
European leaders have expressed dismay over Trump’s executive order. Some U.S. allies were shocked by the blocked entry of their own citizens. These citizens also have passports from one of the affected countries.