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Protesters rally against travel ban outside LI courthouse

From left, Cookie and Al Ayoub of Sayville,

From left, Cookie and Al Ayoub of Sayville, Eileen Haggerty of Islip Terrace, Michele Boccia of Bay Shore, and Ruth Cohen of Lake Grove, joined a small group that gathered outside the U.S. District Court in Central Islip on Tuesday evening, Jan. 31, 2017, to protest Trump administration policies. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

A small group of protesters gathered outside the federal courthouse in Central Islip Tuesday night to demonstrate against President Donald Trump’s policies, saying his administration threatens democratic values.

Nine demonstrator with the ad hoc group Long Island Activists for Democracy, stood in the cold parking lot, holding signs with messages such as “America Land of Immigrants,” “Justice” and “Love More.” They said they were responding to Trump’s cabinet picks and executive orders, specifically citing the recent travel ban that temporarily suspended the U.S. refugee program and banned travel to the U.S. by citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries.

“We have to preserve our democratic traditions,” said Ruth Cohen, 78, a retired immigration officer and Lake Grove resident, adding that she couldn’t believe “the callousness” of what she calls anti-immigrant measures. “Everything that we hold dear is being trashed and being torn apart by people that don’t care.”

The group was also responding to a call by documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, who in a tweet Tuesday urged people to protest Trump’s Supreme Court nominee at federal buildings and U.S. district courthouses. Trump announced Tuesday evening he had nominated federal appeals judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

In the meantime, immigrant advocates working to counter the Trump travel order said they knew of about 70 immigrants or visitors who had been detained at Kennedy Airport since Saturday, said Camille Mackler, legal initiatives director for the New York Immigration Coalition, a Manhattan-based umbrella group for immigrant advocacy efforts in the state.

Even as a temporary stay on parts of the executive order had been put in place by a federal judge and several lawsuits were pending against the order, those advocates remained concerned about what they say is an unjust ban that hurts immigrants, refugees and visitors along religious, national and ethnic lines.

The advocates worry that many more potential immigrants and visitors — including people reuniting with relatives here — were kept from boarding U.S.-bound flights, effectively denying the protections of the laws in this country, Mackler said.

“We are increasingly getting calls from people who have family abroad and don’t know what to do” to help them, Mackler said. “We have no way of accessing them.”

Even though Trump has called the order a “ban” in a tweet, White House spokesman Sean Spicer and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, a Trump appointee, complained about that characterization Tuesday. Kelly called it a “temporary pause that allows us to better review the existing refugee- and visa-vetting system.”

Customs and Border Protection officers denied entry to 721 travelers in the first 72 hours of the ban, the administration said Tuesday. But 872 refugees will be allowed into the United States this week, despite the presidential order.

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