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Trump stands by travel ban amid protests, calls for change

Protesters in lower Manhattan's Battery Park on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017, against a presidential order banning entry for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries. / Anthony Lanzilote

Protesters on Sunday rallied in lower Manhattan and around the country against an executive order banning entry for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries as President Donald Trump stood by the restrictions.

Trump said in a statement, “This is not about religion — this is about terror and keeping our country safe.”

Supporters of the order said it was necessary to protect the country from terrorists. Opponents called it unconstitutional.


After more than 100 travelers were detained and federal court rulings temporarily halted deportations, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday that “going forward,” the order would not apply to those with green cards — legal permanent U.S. residents.

The confusion, played out at the country’s largest airports, led Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) on Sunday to call for a “revision” of the order.

“We all share a desire to protect the American people, but this executive order has been poorly implemented, especially with respect to green card holders,” Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement. “The administration should immediately make appropriate revisions, and it is my hope that following a thorough review and implementation of security enhancements that many of these programs will be improved and reinstated.”

Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham on Sunday issued a joint statement criticizing the way the administration carried out the order, saying, “It is clear from the confusion at our airports across the nation that President Trump’s executive order was not properly vetted. We are particularly concerned by reports that this order went into effect with little to no consultation with the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security.”

Trump, in a two-part tweet, called the senators “wrong” and said they “should focus their energies on ISIS, illegal immigration and border security instead of always looking to start World War III.”

Trump on Sunday issued a statement standing by the ban.

“America is a proud nation of immigrants and we will continue to show compassion to those fleeing oppression, but we will do so while protecting our own citizens and border,” he said. “We will again be issuing visas to all countries once we are sure we have reviewed and implemented the most secure policies over the next 90 days.”


He said his policy was “similar to what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months” and wrote that he had concern for the people of Syria.

“I have tremendous feeling for the people involved in this horrific humanitarian crisis in Syria. My first priority will always be to protect and serve our country, but as President I will find ways to help all those who are suffering.”

Earlier Trump tweeted, “Our country needs strong borders and extreme vetting, NOW. Look what is happening all over Europe and, indeed, the world - a horrible mess!”

The order, issued Friday, suspended entry of all refugees for 120 days. Syrian refugees are barred indefinitely, and visitors from seven countries — Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen — for 90 days. A series of federal court rulings, including from U.S. District Court Judge Ann Donnelly in the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn, blocked deportations of individuals in transit or already at U.S. airports.

Many detainees who were traveling when the order started to be enforced, including a Stony Brook University graduate student from Iran held at Kennedy Airport, were released Sunday after more than 24 hours in detention.

The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement Sunday that in-transit detentions won’t continue. The agency is “working closely with airline partners to prevent travelers who would not be granted entry under the executive orders from boarding international flights to the U.S. Therefore, we do not anticipate that further individuals traveling by air to the United States will be affected,” agency officials said in the statement.

It also echoed Priebus in saying legal residents of the United States will not be affected by the ban.


In Battery Park, a crowd of several thousand opposing the order included Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-Brooklyn), Democratic New York Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan).

Leading the crowd in a chant of “A people united will never be defeated,” Schumer called Trump’s order “nasty” and criticized the president’s other directives.

“They’re bad for America, they’re bad for humanity, they’re bad for national security,” and they stand against “everything that is American,” Schumer, the Senate minority leader, said of the executive orders.

Similar large demonstrations took place Sunday in front of the White House and at airports in Boston and Los Angeles, as well as Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C.

Questions about the executive order and the growing opposition made their way to Cardinal Timothy Dolan after a Manhattan luncheon celebrating the Catholic Charities’ centennial. Dolan said he had “some apprehension,” at first blush, about Trump’s action and the Catholic Church will always work for and serve immigrants.

“We are not newcomers when it comes to helping immigrants,” Dolan said. “The Catholic Church has been doing it from the beginning, because we are an immigrant church. Don’t be surprised that our strong bias is always in favor of the immigrants.”

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) dismissed the protests, saying “everything Trump does” is going to cause demonstrations. “There is so much hysteria out there,” he said Sunday.

Attorneys working for free remained at Kennedy Airport’s Terminal 4 Sunday and many said they expected to stay for the week, assisting detainees and the families of people now unable to return to the United States.

At least a half-dozen writs of habeas corpus seeking injunctive relief for people detained at Kennedy were filed Saturday and Sunday in federal court in the Eastern District in Brooklyn. No hearings have been set.

In a statement released Sunday, Port Authority officials said police with the agency “played no role in detaining individuals at the airport and treated rally participants respectfully. Despite thousands in attendance at an event in which participants at times entered active roadways, there were no reported injuries . . . the agency will review yesterday’s response to inform future events.”