Photo Credit: Screenshot
JFK terminal on Saturday

US District Court Judge Ann Donnelly of the Eastern District of New York on Saturday issued an emergency stay temporarily barring the expulsion of citizens of the seven Muslim-majority countries banned by President Trump’s executive order from entering the US. The judge ruled in favor of an ACLU habeas corpus petition) on behalf of two Iraqi men who had been detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Friday.

President Trump on Friday banned the citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries – Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen – from entering the US for at least the next 90 days. Those countries were defined in an Obama Administration 2016 law on immigration visas as “countries of concern.” The executive order also bars Syrian refugees indefinitely from entering the US and stops the admission of all refugees to the US for four months. It also calls for a review of the Visa Interview Waiver Program allowing travelers from 38 countries to renew their visas without an interview.

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It should be noted that the Trump order is based on the Obama Administration’s Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act (H.R. 158), which prohibits citizens of countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program from visiting the United States under the program if they are dual nationals of or have recently traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria. It was signed into law on December 18, 2015, as part of the Omnibus Appropriations Act of FY2016.

Judge Donnelly, a 2015 President Obama nominee, ruled that “there is imminent danger that, absent the stay of removal, there will be substantial and irreparable injury to refugees, visa-holders, and other individuals from nations subject” to President Trump’s executive order.

said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, told The Hill that the 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.”

Meanwhile, hundreds of demonstrators chanting “No ban, no wall, sanctuary for all!” and “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here!” gathered outside a JFK Airport Arrivals terminal. While this was going on, according to Reuters, government officials and security employees were struggling to figure out which Muslim travelers could enter the US legally and who could not.

U.S. Representatives from NYC Jerrold Nadler (whose district included the Twin Towers) and Nydia Velazquez drove to JFK airport to demand the release of refugees being held under the president’s executive order. After meeting with officials from the Custom and Border Patrol agency, one of the refugees, Hameed Khalid Darweesh, an Iraqi translator who helped the United States government, was released. Nadler and Velazquez were working to release 11 others being held at JFK under the new executive order.

Reps. Nadler and Velazquez issued the a joint statement saying: “Today, we saw in real human terms the damage and the absurdity of Trump’s policies. The president’s executive order is mean-spirited, ill-conceived, and ill-advised. The order almost banned a man from entering the country who has worked for the United States government for 10 years, who risked his life to help us and to help our troops, and who loves our country. […] This should not happen in America.”

Members of the New York City Council Jewish Caucus also drove to JFK, where they issued their own joint statement, saying: As members of the City Council’s Jewish Caucus we are deeply concerned about the current state of affairs at JFK airport and international transportation hubs across the country. President Trump’s heartless refugee ban is antithetical to the interests and values of our nation and our city. […]The fact that refugees are currently being detained in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty is almost too painful to bear.”

According to The Hill, the Department of Homeland Security announced that Trump’s order would apply to green card holders from the seven majority-Muslim countries.

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) said in a statement: “President Trump and his administration are right to be concerned about national security, but it’s unacceptable when even legal permanent residents are being detained or turned away at airports and ports of entry.”

The Trump executive order states that “in order to protect Americans, the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles. The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law. In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including ‘honor’ killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.”

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