Coalition of Volunteers, Attorneys Camp Out at JFK in Wake of Trump Ban

Dozens of volunteer attorneys were continuing to work around the clock at Terminal 4 of John F. Kennedy Airport Monday, part of a spontaneously formed coalition calling itself No Ban JFK.  

The lawyers have already helped more than 40 people clear customs at the Queens airport since President Trump signed an executive order Friday temporarily restricting entry to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries and indefinitely bans Syrian refugees from crossing into the country.

The work is far from over, however, according to Camille Mackler, director of legal initiatives at the New York Immigration Coalition, which was coordinating No Ban JFK's volunteer efforts in assisting detained immigrants at JFK.

"They are in waiting rooms, they are being questioned, that's what we are hearing," Mackler said of the detained travelers. "They are having their documents checked, they are having their background checks done."

Of the 46 people who were detained at JFK, 15 are Iranian nationals, five are Iraqi nationals, one Libyan national, one Saudi Arabian national, one Senegalese national, three Sudanese national, three Syrian nationals, eight Yemeni national, and 10 undetermined, according to Mackler. Forty-two were released, one of whom came as a refugee and therefore not technically detained. Two were sent back to their home countries of Sudan and Iran, and two remain unaccounted for.

"We just had someone traveling from Iraq, not clear what kind of visa, but they didn't make it through, and their friend cannot find them," said Mackler. 

Mackler says on the group's website -- broadened as -- that the coalition isn't in communication with the the government in an official capacity, and that "the numbers we provide come from our lawyers being deployed at terminals, and connections made with the families and loved ones of detainees who get the airport gates." 

The volunteer attorneys at JFK have received hundreds of inquiries from people who were not able to board their international flights. 

"We have the law on our side, and the ACLU is working to mount legal challenges and hopefully, we will be succesful because if anything is shown from 650 lawyers signing up in two days, from 3,000 people at JFK alone on Saturday, from 20,000 in the streets yesterday -- this is now what the president and the people governing want," said Mackler.

Port Authority police briefly banned the volunteer lawyers from Terminal 8, but the after calling Port Authority Police headquarters, were allowed back in.

The volunteer attorneys are working on behalf of individual detainees while the American Civil Liberties Union is taking broader legal action, according to No Ban JFK. 

Meanwhile, demonstrators were also at the airport Monday, though the group was smaller compared to the thousands who descended on Kennedy Airport over the weekend to protest the immigration ban.

"For this fight to keep going, we have to be vigilant every day for the next four years," said Jason Stump of Astoria, Queen. "Because I no longer have the faith that my country has my back so we have to have each other's back despite the govnerment."

Daisy Skeleton drove in from Massachusetts at around midnight Sunday to join the protest, and Bonnie Hilton came in from Washington, D.C.

"We feel a little bit helpless, and helping people have voices -- so really, our physical presence and calling our senators and local government is all we can do right now," Hilton said.

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