Protests have broken out at the John F Kennedy (JFK) International Airport in New York City as immigrants, including US green card holders, have been detained following right-wing President Donald Trump’s executive order placing harsh restrictions on travellers from several Muslim-majority countries.
Hundreds of demonstrators chanted “No ban, no wall, sanctuary for all!” and “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here!” while gathering outside the airport’s Terminal Four arrivals section.
Other protests were held at airports in Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington DC, among other US cities.
The protests came in response to passport holders from Arab countries being blocked on Saturday from passing through customs at US airports, while others were prevented from boarding US-bound planes.
On Friday, Trump signed an executive order to curb immigration and the entry of people from some Muslim-majority countries. He separately said he wanted the US to give priority to Syrian Christians fleeing the civil war there.
Trump placed a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the country and temporarily barred travellers from Syria and six other Muslim-majority countries.
The protest was attended by several New York-based organisations, including Make the Road New York, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), Black Latino Asian Caucus members and The New York Immigration Coalition, among others.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Julia Carmel, an organiser with JFREJ, decried Trump’s executive order.
“The purpose of our protest at JFK airport is twofold. First, we are demanding the safe release of refugees and other visa-holders, all of whom cooperated with a long and gruelling vetting process in order to get here,” she said.
“Additionally, the central message of our protest is that we are all immigrants or children of immigrants and refugees. The executive order is not only inhumane; it is absurd and hypocritical,” she added, pointing out that the ban came into effect on Holocaust Remembrance Day (Friday).
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) January 28, 2017
Tara Raghuveer, a 24-year-old national immigrant rights organiser with Make the Road New York, described the executive orders as “deeply un-American”.
“They go against everything our country aspires to stand for,” she told Al Jazeera at the protest.
Kazi Fouzia, a 48-year-old Bangladeshi immigrant and activist with Desis Rising Up and Moving, said she came to the protest to say: “Banning one of us is banning all of us. Terrorising one of us is terrorising all of us.”
Fouzia, who has lived in New York City for ten years, added: “We are here to make sure every single person held in JFK will be released … we have to take down the policy.”
Trump administration officials have defended the executive order. Speaking to reporters on Saturday, a senior US administration official confirmed that the restrictions will affect legal permanent residents, known as green card holders, on a case-by-base basis.
For at least 90 days, citizens of Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan and Libya are barred from entering the country. Syrians have been banned from entering the US indefinitely.
Immigrants from the seven countries have been blocked from boarding US-bound planes in Lebanon, Egypt, United Arab Emirates and elsewhere.
Legal representatives for two Iraqi men filed lawsuits against Trump and the US government on Saturday, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a rights group.
Both men had ties to the US military and had visas. They were detained on Friday night in JFK Airport.
“President Trump’s war on equality is already taking a terrible human toll. This ban cannot be allowed to continue,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, in a statement.
Additional reporting from New York City by Kelly Lunde: @Kllunde