Thousands of protesters flooded airports across the United States over the weekend after President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday temporarily banning all refugees from entering the country, and barring access for 90 days to nationals from seven majority-Muslim nations. The draconian measure instantly cut off access to the U.S. to 218 million people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It indefinitely suspended the admission of Syrian refugees. Across the world, travelers were left stranded, while scores were detained by customs officials after landing at U.S. airports. As news of the order spread on Saturday, thousands gathered at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City for an impromptu protest. On Saturday, Democracy Now! spoke to protesters at JFK.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Thousands of protesters flooded airports across the United States over the weekend after President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday temporarily banning all refugees from entering the country, and barring access for 90 days to nationals from seven majority-Muslim nations. The draconian measure instantly cut off access to the United States for 218 million people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It indefinitely suspended the admission of Syrian refugees.
AMY GOODMAN: Across the world, travelers were left stranded, while scores were detained by customs officials after landing at U.S. airports. As news of the order spread Saturday, thousands gathered at JFK Airport in New York City for an impromptu protest. Democracy Now!’s Nermeen Shaikh was there.
PROTESTERS: Let them in! Let them in! Let them in! Let them in! Let them in! Let them in!
NERMEEN SHAIKH: We’re outside New York City’s John F. Kennedy Airport, outside Terminal 4, where thousands of people have gathered to protest the Trump administration’s executive order, which has prevented many people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, more than 10 of them here detained at Terminal 4. Thousands of people here are chanting “Let them in!” “This is what democracy looks like!” and “Refugees welcome here.” Let’s talk to some of the people here.
MOUMITA AHMED: My name is Moumita Ahmed, and I’m here today because, as a Muslim woman, I find this ban extremely just personal to me, because I have family members who are on visa, and now they’re—they are at risk of not being able to leave or enter the country. And again, as a Muslim, I feel like this is targeting our community in an unfair way. I was here since 12:30, and before, it was like a hundred people that showed up. And then we were live-streaming. I actually tweeted for people to be here, and it had like 2,000 retweets. And then, just I was live-streaming, which I got a lot of shares, like almost a thousand shares. And I think other people that were here did the same thing. And next thing you know, there’s like entire huge crowds started showing up. And now there’s protests happening all over the country.
PROTESTERS: No hate! No fear! Refugees are welcome here!
SHERRY: My name is Sherry, and I’m here as a Jewish American who is very aware of what we did just a couple generations ago, and I don’t want to see us do this again. Muslims are my brothers, and they deserve to be here just as much as I do. And no person is illegal. So I’m here to express that on this super-cold night.
DAVID: My name’s David. I live here in New York. I’m from Texas, but my parents are from Vietnam.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And what brings you here tonight?
DAVID: I am angry. I am so angry at this. If it wasn’t for the country letting my parents in here when they were refugees, none of us would be here. New York is made up of immigrants and refugees. And this is infuriating.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: So your parents came here as refugees?
DAVID: They did, from Vietnam. My entire family did. And it’s absurd that Muslims are being targeted. It’s ridiculous. When my parents first came to this country, they had nothing, and they came here with a hope to escape their country and everything horrible that was going on over in Vietnam, and to build a life. And they built a life from scratch here. They paid their taxes. They had their children. They looked to America as a beacon of hope. And it’s unfair that right now we want to ban Muslims. It’s terrible.
LIONEL: My name is Lionel, and I’m from Brazil, but I’ve been here for over 20 years. I went through the green card process. I know how much of a vetting process that actually is already, and even just the visa process. And I know that it takes very little of a suspicious note in your résumé, in your history, as a person, of your family, to even be not allowed in at that point. So, to even add to that something so ridiculous and arbitrary as a Muslim ban, it makes absolutely no sense and is completely xenophobic.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: The people who are being prevented from entering the U.S. even include legal permanent residents, people who have green cards, from those seven countries that have been designated by the Trump administration.
LIONEL: That’s correct. I mean, that’s what’s even more appalling about it. But just from a basic level, we shouldn’t turn people away. That’s what this country was founded on. And it’s not just that; it’s just common human decency. You’re keeping people from escaping a country that you, yourself, have destroyed.
RUHI KAPURIA: My name is Ruhi Kapuria [phon.], and I’m from Long Island, Valley Stream.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: What are your concerns for Muslims who are here already in the U.S. under a Trump administration, under this administration?
RUHI KAPURIA: Well, I would say, all my Muslim brothers and sisters, there’s nothing to fear. Your actions are more important. Keep doing what you’re doing, and we are not going to do anything wrong. We are going to be unapologetic Muslims.
PROTESTERS: Whose country? Our country! Whose country? Our country!
SHERRY: I heard that there was one man that was released earlier today, and I hope that with the pressure of a lot of electeds who are here tonight—I was standing with a bunch of city council people—thousands of people here, that the shame and embarrassment of doing this act and everyone seeing you will help it stop. Now, that being said, that’s just today. So what happens like a month from now, when people just—you know, they’re still stuck in their country, they’re not here at the airport? This is the dramatic thing, when they’re here at the airport. I’m worried almost more about what happens a few weeks from now, when people who are expecting to come here from refugee camps just can’t come. We won’t see those people. We’re all very aware of the 10 or so inside. I’m worried more almost about what happens with the people we’re not going to be as aware of, you know?
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Outside a very cold Terminal 4 at New York City’s John F. Kennedy Airport, I’m Nermeen Shaikh, with Sam Alcoff and Anna Ozbek, for Democracy Now!
PROTESTERS: [singing] From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters, this land was made for you and me.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Protests spread to other airports—in Boston, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Atlanta, San Francisco. President Trump’s order also drew immediate legal challenges. On Saturday, the ACLU asked a federal judge to intervene in the case of two Iraqis detained at JFK Airport. At Saturday night, U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly in Brooklyn ordered the men released as part of a nationwide stay on part of Trump’s executive order. Her ruling temporarily blocked the deportation of valid visa holders, including those from countries listed in Trump’s ban.
AMY GOODMAN: In Boston, Carl Williams, a lawyer from the ACLU, announced the legal victory while standing in front of hundreds of protesters at Logan International Airport.
CARL WILLIAMS: [echoed by the People’s Mic] The ACLU nationally filed for a writ of habeas corpus to stop this nationally. A judge in New York just granted that. The legal premise that we’ve learned tonight is that when we fight, we win!
AMY GOODMAN: Judges in California, Massachusetts, Virginia and Washington quickly followed with similar rulings, and the Department of Homeland Security said Sunday it would comply with the orders. But some lawmakers report Customs and Border Protection officers are defying the courts. We’ll be back with more on Donald Trump’s executive order and the mass protests across the country. Stay with us.