U.S. Representatives Nadler and Velazquez protest at JFK

U.S. Representatives Nadler and Velazquez join protesters at JFK airport to show their opposition to U.S. President Donald Trump’s executive orders regarding immigration.

QUEENS, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES (JANUARY 28, 2017) (REUTERS) – Detention of two Muslim men with valid visas at the JFK airport on Friday (January 27) sparked a furry of protests.

“An unconstitutional and disgusting application on the basis of religious discrimination violates every tradition of this country,” said U.S. Representative Jerry Nadler, Democrat from New York, who joined protesters at the JFK airport on Saturday (January 28). “And we here to say this should stop, and it should be revoked,”

One of the men, former U.S. Army interpreter, Hameed Khalid Darweesh, was later released. At least three lawyers from the International Refugee Assistance Project were at the arrivals lounge at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, buried in their laptops and conference calls, photocopies of individuals’ U.S. visas on hand.

“This is ill-advised, mean-spirited, tearnig families apart,” said U.S. Representative Nydia Velázquez, also from New York, who held joined press conference with Rep. Nadler. “And that is not who we are. It will undermine cooperation and collaboration that we need from Muslim countries to fight terrorism. It is wrong, and we will fight it today and every single day.”

President Donald Trump’s most far reaching action since taking office plunged America’s immigration system into chaos on Saturday (January 28), not only for refugees but for legal U.S. residents who were turned away at airports and feared being stranded outside the country.

Immigration lawyers and advocates worked through the night trying to help stranded travelers find a way back home.

Lawyers in New York sued to block the order, saying many people have already been unlawfully detained, including an Iraqi who worked for the U.S. Army in Iraq. Confusion abounded at airports as immigration and customs officials struggled to interpret the new rules, with some legal residents who were in the air when the order was issued detained at airports upon arrival.

The new Republican president on Friday put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily barred travelers from Syria and six other Muslim-majority countries. He said the moves would protect Americans from terrorism, in a swift and stern delivery on a campaign promise. The ban affects travelers with passports from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and extends to green card holders who are legal permanent residents of the United States.

Arab travelers in the Middle East and North Africa said the order was humiliating and discriminatory. It drew widespread criticism from U.S. Western allies including France and Germany, Arab-American groups and human rights organizations. Iran condemned the order as an “open affront against the Muslim world and the Iranian nation” and vowed to retaliate. Of the seven countries targeted, Iran sends the most visitors to the United States each year – around 35,000 in 2015, according to the Department of Homeland Security. The ban extends to green card holders who are authorized to live and work in the United States, Homeland Security spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said. It was unclear how many legal permanent residents would be affected. A senior U.S. administration official said on Saturday that green card holders from the seven affected countries have to be cleared into the United States on a case-by-case basis.

In Washington, the agencies charged with handling immigration and refugee issues grappled with how to interpret the measure. U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they were not consulted on the executive order and in some cases only learned the details as they were made public.

At the State Department, a senior official said lawyers were working closely with their counterparts at Homeland Security to interpret the executive order, which allows entry to people affected by the order when it is in the “national interest.” However, a federal law enforcement official said, “It’s unclear at this point what the threshold of national interest is.”

Senior administration officials said it would have been “reckless” to broadcast details of the order in advance of new security measures. The officials told reporters that Homeland Security now has guidance for airlines. They dismissed as “ludicrous” the notion that the order amounted to a “Muslim ban.”

Afghanistan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Oman, Tunisia and Turkey were Muslim-majority countries not included, an official said. Since it was announced on Friday, enforcement of the order was spotty and disorganized.