After Daylong Protests, Judge Blocks Deportation of Immigrants Detained at US Airports | NBC New York
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After Daylong Protests, Judge Blocks Deportation of Immigrants Detained at US Airports

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    Rep. Nydia Velazquez condemns the detainment of two heavily vetted Iraqi refugees at JFK airport, calling the action "an affront to American values." (Published Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017)

    What to Know

    • Hundreds protested at JFK where at least 12 refugees were detained.

    • A federal judge issued a nationwide stay preventing those detained from being deported.

    • The order also requires the government to provide a list of names of those detained.

    Hundreds of protesters erupted in cheers Saturday night as they learned that a federal judge in Brooklyn blocked part of President Donald Trump's travel ban, preventing immigrants detained at JFK and other U.S. airports from being deported. 

    The temporary injunction from U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly also requires the government to provide a list of the names of people detained. At least 10 people remained detained at JFK Saturday, two others were released before the judge's ruling. 

    “This ruling preserves the status quo and ensures that people who have been granted permission to be in this country are not illegally removed off U.S. soil," said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project who argued the case.

    Trump Immigration Order Triggers Protests Across USTrump Immigration Order Triggers Protests Across US

    Crowds gathered at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn where the American Civil Liberties Union argued for the nationwide stay. As lawyers emerged from court, the crowd broke out in chants of "Yes we can, yes we can." 

    Hillary Clinton tweeted about the protests late Saturday, saying: "I stand with the people gathered across the country tonight defending our values & our Constitution. This is not who we are."

    The Department of Homeland Security issued a statement early Sunday that said the court order would not affect the overall implementation of the White House order and the court order affected a small number of travelers who were inconvenienced by security procedures upon their return.

    "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: "Nothing in the Brooklyn judge's order in anyway impedes or prevents the implementation of the president's executive order which remains in full, complete and total effect."

    The protest had largely shifted to the courthouse from John F. Kennedy International Airport, where people gathered for a daylong protest that at times had more than 300 people. 

    They held homemade signs that read "No ban, no wall" and "Refugees welcome" in front of Terminal 4's international arrivals area. One sign called for President Trump's impeachment and the deportation of the first lady.

    "We're here to tell Trump that we are not going anywhere," said lawyer and refugee advocate Jacki Esposito, who helped organize the protest. "Today is the beginning of a long opposition from us, and our neighbors all over the country."

    Trump said the halt in the refugee program was necessary to give agencies time to develop a stricter screening system. His executive order also banned refugees from Syria indefinitely, and put in place an immediate 90-day ban for all immigration to the U.S. from the seven Muslim-majority nations.

    One of the people detained at JFK was Hameed Jhalid Darweesh, who worked with the U.S. in Iraq in a number of roles, including as an interpreter for the U.S. army. He had been targeted twice for working with the U.S. military, according to The New York Times.

    Nearly four hours after news of the detainment broke, U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler announced that Darweesh was released from custody.

    After he was freed Saturday, Darweesh told a waiting crowd: "We know America is the land of freedom, the land of freedom, the land of light. I am very thankful and very happy.

    "America is the greatest nation, the greatest people in the world."

    He said that he came with his family and they were separated while he was detained. His family was released while he was held.

    A second Iraqi refugee detained was detained later Saturday, the immigrant rights group Make the Road said. That left 10 refugees in custody at JFK.

    The New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA) joined the protest, drawing attention to the anti-Muslim violence suffered by their Sikh and non-Muslim brown drivers. Taxi drivers didn't pick up passengers from 6 p.m.-7p.m. at JFK in solidarity with protesters, the union tweeted.

    "Today, drivers are joining the protest at JFK Airport in support of all those who are currently being detained #NoBanNoWall," the nonprofit organization tweeted.

    NYTWA added that the executive orders puts professional drivers and its members, many of who are Muslim, in more danger since 9/11, when hate crimes against Muslims skyrocketed.

    "By sanctioning bigotry with his unconstitutional and [sic] inhumane executive order, the president is putting professional drivers in more danger than they have been in any time since 9/11," the organization said in a statement Saturday.

    Reps. Nadler and Nydia Velazquez met with Customs and Border Patrol supervisors at the airport as the two worked to provide legal access to the detainees.

    "These are people who are no threat to the United States and who have worked with the armed forces for years and who were given visas on those basis," Nadler said. "It is shameful not to mention [that they've worked with the US for years] and probably implies religious discrimination."

    "It is a sad day for the American people. This is not who we are, this is an affront to our American values," said Velazquez. "This is a matter of life and death. These types of actions undermine our national security, and our president, Donald Trump, doesn't get it."

    In a statement posted to his Twitter account, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the words inscribed at the foot of the Statue of Liberty to remind people that America is a melting pot, not a divider, of cultures.

    "We are a nation of bridges, not walls, and a great many of us still believe the words 'give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses...'," he said. "This is not who we are. And not who we should be."

    Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said his staff had been in touch with lawyers for the refugees and would provide legal assistance to them. 

    "I will do everything in my power to help those who have been victimized by President Trump's discriminatory and dangerous executive action," Schneiderman said. 

    The protests disrupted traffic at the airport. The Port Authority said there would be no taxi pick-ups or drop-offs until 8 p.m. and travelers should make alternate plans. 

    The Port Authority suspended AirTrain service to the airport, but Cuomo ordered the agency to reverse its decision and restore service. He also told the MTA and state police to assist with the transportation and security of the protesters. 

    "The people of New York will have their voices heard," Cuomo said in a statement.

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