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Thursday, May 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Airport Detainees Show Muslim Ban Has Cast a Wide Net

The executive order banning refugees from Muslim-majority nations was already on hold Sunday when a North African man spent seven hours in immigration lockdown. That his country of origin is not one of the seven flagged by President Donald Trump is one many points undermining the White House's position that the order is not a Muslim ban.

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MANHATTAN (CN) — After a federal judge blocked President Donald Trump from making the United States off-limits to citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations, the celebrations had barely quieted before a North African green card holder began an hours-long ordeal in immigration custody.

“Nobody told him about any right to talk to an attorney, or any other rights,” Tor Ekeland attorney Fred Jennings said of the immigrant, whose country of origin is not among the seven affected by executive order Trump signed Friday.

Jennings, one of the dozens of attorneys who helped detainees at John F. Kennedy Airport, shared the man’s story in a phone interview on Sunday night. His client has remained anonymous out of fear of retaliation from Customs and Border Protection.

By the time the green card holder had landed in New York on Sunday morning, the freeze that U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly had put on Trump’s order was already hours old.

Denied food, water, counsel or an Arabic translator, the North African man was released only after he was driven to tears during a seven-hour interrogation, Jennings said.

Immigrants are voicing similar stories. Jordan is also not on the ban list, but the Chicago Tribune reported that a visa holder from that country was deported from O'Hare on Sunday.

After federal judges issued stays similar to that of Donnelly’s in Virginia, Massachusetts, California and Washington state, Trump offered a small concession Sunday: agreeing to remove language from his executive order that would bar more than 500,000 green card holders, as estimated by ProPublica.

Yet on other fronts, the Trump administration has remained defiant. At Washington Dulles International Airport, attorneys say that officers with Customs and Border Protection are spurning the order by U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema to let them meet with detained travelers.

“We have a constitutional crisis today,” Rep. Dan Bayer, a Virginia Democrat, tweeted on Sunday. “Four Members of Congress asked CBP officials to enforce a federal court order and were turned away.”

All over the country, protesters have taken to the streets to pressure the administration to obey the courts.

In lower Manhattan, tens of thousands gathered for a protest at Battery Park, a site selected for its symbolism across the New York Harbor from the Statute of Liberty.

Raising his fist in front of a sign that said “No Ban, No Wall,” youth organizer Antonio Alarcon from the advocacy group Make the Road New York had also gone to Kennedy Airport the night before. He said he would stay in the streets as long as it would take to defeat the executive order.

“This is only Round I of many rounds that we are going to see in court, but I have hope for the future,” Alarcon said with regard to the restraining orders granted a night earlier.

Many placards at the demonstration highlighted the irony of Trump announcing his executive order on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Donna Nicolino, a licensed social worker, held a poster of Anne Frank next to text that noted the German child and her family were among hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees whom the United States denied entry.

“Anne Frank was a young woman who showed so much promise, and so much intelligence, and so much compassion,” Nicolino said. “And that was cut off so brutally at such a young age. All of these children that are being turned away might suffer similarly horrible fates. The whole world is being deprived of what they might bring.”

Nicolino’s was a common sentiment at the march. “Today’s Anne Frank is a Syrian girl,” one sign at the protest said.

Compounding the odd timing of Trump’s action against Muslims, the president announced on Sunday that he replaced the most senior intelligence and military officials on the National Security Council with his chief political strategist, Stephen Bannon.

Following reports that Bannon had helped craft the Muslim ban, the hashtag #StopPresidentBannon went viral on Twitter. Protesters on the street see the former Breitbart News head as a “puppeteer” behind the Trump White House.

“This is a true master of distraction,” said protester Patrick Kearns, wielding a hand-painted sign with the White House strategist’s portrait and the words “Ban Bannon.”

“Bannon’s the puppeteer,” Kearns added.

The protester’s brother David Kearns, a New York-based artist, painted the portrait of Bannon — and him alone — on the night of Trump’s election.

Billing Breitbart as a “platform of the alt-right,” Bannon earned a reputation among Trump's opponents as an open white nationalist in the White House. His ex-wife has accused Bannon of an obsessive prejudice against Jews.

Court records in Brooklyn on Monday showed at least 14 habeas cases related to airport detentions. There are talks of the Council on Arabic-Islamic Relations filing suit over the executive order Monday in Virginia. The attorney general of Washington state said he will also be filing suit, and the California Senate passed a symbolic resolution calling on Trump to rescind his executive action.

Without specifically mentioning Trump’s executive order, a spokesman for Barack Obama says the former president "fundamentally disagrees" with discrimination that targets people based on their religion.

Categories / Civil Rights

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