Lawyers for two Iraqi men detained at Kennedy Airport filed suit early Saturday to compel their release and to block full enforcement of President Donald Trump’s executive order barring entry of any non-U.S. citizens from Iraq, Iran and five other majority-Muslim countries and temporarily banning refugees from entering the country.
One of the men was released at about 1 p.m. Saturday, and attorneys said they were negotiating the release of at least one more person. Eleven other people in the airport were being detained.
By midday, Iran had retaliated against the Trump-imposed ban against its citizens with its own action blocking U.S. citizens from entering Iran.
Representatives for the White House could not immediately be reached for comment.
Rep. Jerry Nadler and Rep. Nydia Velazquez, both New York City Democrats, and lawyers with the International Refugee Asylum Project negotiated the release of detainee Hameed Khalid Darweesh.
Outside Kennedy’s Terminal 4, he was reunited with his wife and children, who had traveled on the same flight from Iraq and were released Friday night.
Darweesh had been granted a “special immigrant visa” last week, the lawsuit said, because he worked for the U.S. military as an interpreter, for a federal agency as an engineer and for a federal contractor.
“The soul of America pushes me to leave my country and come here,” Darweesh said outside the terminal. “America is the land of freedom and the right. I’m very thankful . . . I have a special visa in my passport. I support the U.S. government, but they said they have a policy, and said I broke the rules.”
Darweesh said he handed over his passport, and customs officials put it in envelope without explanation.
He left the airport flanked by Nadler, Velazquez and immigration attorneys and was greeted by at least 1,000 protesters chanting, “No ban! No wall! Donald Trump has got to fall!”
“They told me, ‘Don’t worry, this is America. There is a constitution, and I will be freed,’ ” Darweesh said. “When I get out, I was surprised.”
The lawsuit on behalf of Darweesh and Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, filed in the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn by several organizations, seeks an injunction barring the detention of any migrant detained because of Trump’s executive order and the release of any already detained.
Alshawi was granted a visa earlier this month to join his wife and son in the United States. They had been given refugee status because of the family’s association with the U.S. military, the suit says.
Both had cleared security checks.
The suit says the men’s detention violates their constitutional due process rights and is outside immigration law. It asks for a writ of habeas corpus, to allow lawyers to go before the court to ask for the men’s release.
Trump on Friday issued an executive order suspending the entry of all refugees for 120 days, suspending indefinitely the entry of Syrian refugees and barring the entry of citizens of Iraq, Iran and five other majority-Muslim countries for 90 days. He said the order would help protect Americans from terrorist attacks.
The lawsuit against the president and federal agencies was filed by the National Immigration Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, International Refugee Assistance Project, Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale University Law School and the Manhattan law firm of Kilpatrick Townsend and Stockton.
About 100 demonstrators gathered Saturday outside Terminal 4 for international arrivals at Kennedy Airport to protest the executive order.
Ladslav Leitner, 45, of the Bronx, held a sign that said “Impeach Trump, deport Melania,” who was born in Slovenia.
“I’m here to show how ridiculous the ideas from the White House are,” Leitner said. “It’s insane. He’s hurting immigrants and hurting asylum seekers.”
Iran, in its blockage of U.S. citizens, invoked “the principle of reciprocity.”
“While respecting the American people and distinguishing between them and the hostile policies of the U.S. government, Iran will implement the principle of reciprocity until the offensive U.S. limitations against Iranian nationals are lifted,” a Foreign Ministry statement said.
“The restrictions against travel by Muslims to America . . . are an open affront against the Muslim world and the Iranian nation in particular and will be known as a great gift to extremists,” said the statement, carried by state media.
In Egypt, Cairo airport officials say seven U.S.-bound migrants — six from Iraq and one from Yemen — were prevented from boarding an EgyptAir flight to Kennedy Airport.
Officials said the seven migrants, escorted by officials from the United Nations refugee agency, were stopped from boarding the plane after authorities at Cairo airport contacted their counterparts at Kennedy.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
With The Associated Press and Reuters