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Officials: More protests over Trump refugee ban expected at Kennedy

Protesters at Kennedy Airport call for travelers with

Protesters at Kennedy Airport call for travelers with legal visas to be admitted to the country on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. Credit: Getty Images / Stephanie Keith

Officials said more protests are expected Sunday at Kennedy Airport in response to President Donald Trump’s executive order banning entry of non-U.S. citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Police arrested one person for disorderly conduct Saturday night after more than 2,000 people demonstrated outside Terminal 4, officials said, and people who were stopped by customs officers after landing at JFK remained in detention status. 

The president stood by his order with a Sunday morning tweet, writing, “Our country needs strong borders and extreme vetting, NOW. Look what is happening all over Europe and, indeed, the world - a horrible mess!”

In an interview on CNN Sunday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said no one from the Trump administration has reached out to him or other city officials to explain how to implement the order, which he called unconstitutional.

“There was no guidance,” de Blasio said. “President Trump’s executive order is simply un-American. ... detention without due process violates constitutional norms."

While the demonstrations took place Saturday night, a Brooklyn federal judge partially blocked Trump’s order for the 90-day ban. Protesters outside the Brooklyn federal courthouse and at Kennedy Airport erupted into cheers as word spread of U.S. District Court Judge Ann M. Donnelly’s ruling.

De Blasio said he did not know how many people remained in detention at JFK after Donnelly’s ruling.

“Judge Donnelly’s ruling was quite clear,” the mayor said. “We are still not clear the Trump administration has honored the decision.”

The Department of Homeland Security early Sunday said that Donnelly’s ruling temporarily barring the U.S. from deporting people from nations subject to Trump’s travel ban will not affect the overall implementation of the White House executive action.

The agency said the court order affected a relatively small number of travelers who were inconvenienced by security procedures upon their return. The department’s statement said: “President Trump’s Executive Orders remain in place — prohibited travel will remain prohibited, and the U.S. government retains its right to revoke visas at any time if required for national security or public safety,” according to the DHS statement.

Stephen Miller, a senior adviser to the White House, said that nothing in the judge’s order “in anyway impedes or prevents the implementation of the president’s executive order, which remains in full, complete and total effect.”

Selden resident Barbara Gundrum’s husband, Abdulelah Othman, a Yemeni citizen who had been living legally in the United States for more than a year, was visiting his ailing mother in Saudi Arabia when the Trump order was announced. Sunday, Othman was still in Saudi Arabia, unable to return to the United States because of the order.

“It’s not looking promising,” Gundrum said Sunday. “The stay that’s in place isn’t going to help us. It’s for people stranded at airports.”

When she heard news reports Saturday morning about the visa and refugee ban, she tried to reach Othman. 

“I sat for a minute feeling numb,” Gundrum said. “We’re not a perfect couple, but we love each other. My life is now on hold."

Gundrum, 56, and Othman, 42, married five years ago after meeting at King Faisal Hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where Gundrum was working as a nurse.

Othman was supposed to call Gundrum on Saturday with his travel arrangements, but instead called to say he was barred from returning home because Yemen is among the seven countries whose citizens are blocked from entering the United States.

“I thought this can’t be happening here, not in this country,” Gundrum said tearfully. “This is his home, this is his house and his dogs and his wife.”

Other than the usual crowd of taxicabs, buses and passengers coming and to and from Kennedy terminals, the airport was quiet, with no protests Sunday morning at an area set aside for demonstrators across from Terminal 4. 

At about 10 a.m. lawyers and advocates were meeting with relatives of detainees inside near a terminal restaurant to plot their next moves.

Nearby, a small crowd waited, sitting in chairs or standing, carrying flowers and signs that read: “I love all people,” and “We love Muslims.”

Robert Reffkin, 37 of Manhattan, said he and his wife, Benis, were at the airport to “show our support to make sure all people feel welcome.”

Reffkin said his mother was an immigrant from Israel, and said Benis’ mother emigrated from the Dominican Republic. 

“We wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for a pro-immigrant policy. Targeting people for their religion is unAmerican and goes against everything we stand for,” Reffkin said.

Vocal demonstrations were held at airports across the country on Saturday. More than 120 people clutching signs denouncing the Trump immigration orders gathered at Newark Liberty International, while dozens of demonstrators protested inside Washington Dulles International Airport, chanting “Love, Not Hate, Makes America Great” and “Say It Loud, Say It Clear, Muslims Are Welcome Here.”

Dozens more converged on Denver International Airport to show their support for refugees.

The president’s action on Friday had prompted several organizations to join in filing suit early Saturday against him and federal agencies, seeking the release of two Iraqis detained at Kennedy Airport on Friday night because of the ban, and an injunction barring the detention of any migrant solely on the basis of Trump’s order and the release of those already detained.
Trump, in signing the executive order Friday afternoon, said he was helping to protect Americans from terrorists. On Saturday, he said the crackdown on those from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and refugees “is not a Muslim ban.” Trump, speaking in the Oval Office, also said the ban “is working out very nicely.”

Others expressed a sense of betrayal over Trump’s decision to deny U.S. entry to some Muslims and refugees. 

The Westbury-based Islamic Center of Long Island said it understood the “fear and confusion” about terrorism. 

“We also cherish the ideals that made our country great. Tolerance, freedom of expression, association and religion,” the center said in a statement.


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