Ruling delivers fresh blow to US president’s long-running efforts to restrict entry of travellers from seven countries.
Washington, DC – On the day Donald Trump was elected US president, Shereen Ali, a sophomore at Rutgers University, was working as a server at her father’s New York restaurant.
“One customer looked me in my face and said, ‘I can’t wait until this man becomes president so he can kick all the Muslims out of this country and stop all of them from coming in,'” Ali recalled.
“The first thing that came to my mind was that I wouldn’t be able to go visit my family in other countries or that they would never be able to come here,” she told Al Jazeera.
On Wednesday, Ali joined several hundred activists in Washington, DC, to protest the Trump administration’s latest attempt to bar various individuals from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria and Venezuela.
Chanting “No ban, no wall, human rights for all!” protesters gathered in Lafayette Square, next to the White House, for speeches from campaign leaders before marching to the Trump International Hotel .
The demonstration, dubbed #NoMuslimBanEver, was organised by a coalition of immigration and civil rights organisations.
Carrying signs and American flags, many protesters told Al Jazeera that the administration’s succession of travel bans had affected them personally.
Yusuf Muse, a US citizen who emigrated from Somalia in 1991, said that he had not seen his parents in 27 years.
After sponsoring them to come to the US, Muse decided to postpone the reunion until the government stopped trying to shut down travel from Somalia.
“It’s very upsetting,” Muse said. “Sometimes, I don’t sleep.”
Organisers had planned the march for Wednesday, the day that the third version of the president’s travel ban was scheduled to go into effect.
The event turned more hopeful than expected, however, after a federal judge in Hawaii on Tuesday temporarily halted the administration from implementing most of the restrictions.
A second similar injunction was issued earlier on Wednesday by a federal judge in Maryland.
Linda Sarsour, a prominent civil rights activist and one of the event organisers, welcomed the ruling but cautioned against complacency.
“I love Hawaii, but for me, it was a small battle won in the larger war that we’re in right now to protect immigrant communities, Muslims and refugees,” Sarsour told Al Jazeera.
“We can’t just celebrate and go home. We have to stay out fighting, and that’s why we’re here today rallying in Washington, DC.”
Unlike the administration’s first two executive orders, Trump’s latest travel ban was indefinite.
In an effort to strengthen the measure against legal challenge, the administration included country-by-country specifications for which citizens would be barred from entry.
The ruling by Judge Derrick K Watson in Hawaii halts only the restriction on travel from Muslim-majority nations, allowing the restrictions on Venezuela and North Korea to move ahead.
Advocates argued that Venezuela and North Korea had been added to obfuscate what remained at heart a Muslim ban.
“They just threw these countries in to balance out allegations that this is a Muslim ban,” said Zahra Billoo, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in San Francisco and the Bay Area.
“If you look at the impact on travellers from North Korea and Venezuela, it’s so small,” she told Al Jazeera.
“One, there weren’t that many people coming from North Korea on immigrant visas, to begin with, and for Venezuela, the ban is limited to … government officials and their family members.”
The Trump administration contends that the ban targets the eight countries for failing to provide enough information to vet prospective travellers.
Watson’s ruling “undercuts the President’s efforts to keep the American people safe and enforce minimum security standards for entry into the United States,” the White House said in a statement on Tuesday.
The administration announced that it will appeal the ruling, and activists, including Henrike Dessaules, communications director for the International Refugee Assistance Project, say they know they are in for a long legal fight.
“We will continue to litigate against this ban and any other versions of it that violate the rights of Muslims, refugees or immigrants,” Dessaules said.