Asbury Park Press

Protests Arise In N.J. Against Trump Order

Asbury Park Press — January 30, 2017


Protests around the metropolitan area and across the country are going on Sunday as widespread outrage continued regarding President Donald Trump's sweeping order on Friday that banned people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States and suspended the nation's refugee program.

While Newark Liberty Airport Terminal B?the international terminal?was quiet on Sunday morning with few flights arriving before lunchtime, protests in Teaneck and Manhattan have been scheduled to highlight concerns about the order being seen as as unAmerican and discriminatory.

Teaneck Together, a progressive women's group, began a rally at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at the Municipal Green at the corner of Cedar Lane and Teaneck Road, with the theme of supporting immigrants. The group will call for an immediate repeal of Trump's "unjust executive order." A half-century ago, Teaneck became a pioneering town in which a white majority voted in favor of school integration. In Elizabeth, a protest is scheduled at the Homeland Security Detention Center from 3 to 6 p.m.

From 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., a March vs. Muslim Ban event will be held beginning at Battery Park near the Statue of Liberty. Co-sponsors include the New York Civil Liberties Union and the National Immigration Law Center.

And from 2 to 4:30 p.m. the Northern New Jersey chapter or Jewish Voice for Peace is holding a workshop titled "Standing Up to Islamaphobia: What to Do When You See It" at the Montclair Fire Department's headquarters.

More than 1,000 people gathered at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on Saturday and more than 120 at Newark Liberty International Airport, clutching signs denouncing the executive order. They were alongside lawyers who rushed to the airports to defend the rights of refugees, immigrants and green-card holders, among others, who were being detained and denied entry.

"This banning of people based on religion is not constitutional, and it's not what we are about," said Yamandou Alexander of Jersey City, who hurried to Newark Airport Saturday when he found out about the demonstration. Alexander, a U.S. citizen who was born in France and who is Muslim, said he could not stay away.

The reverberations began only hours after Trump signed the executive order Friday that suspends the entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, halts the admission of refugees from Syria indefinitely and bars entry for three months to residents from the predominantly Muslim countries of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.

The ban includes green card holders, who will need a case-by-case waiver to return to the United States, a senior administration official said in a White House briefing Saturday. Green card holders already in the U.S. will need to meet with a consular officer before leaving the country, according to the official, who declined to be identified under the rules of the briefing.

President Trump has said that the order is not a Muslim ban, but rather restrictions on entry from countries with a history of terrorism meant to keep radical terrorists from entering the U.S. The order gives preference in admission to Christians, whom Trump said are persecuted in majority Muslim countries.

The protests on Saturday were organized spontaneously and grew throughout the day as news spread about the farreaching impact of Trump's order. There were reports about legal residents detained at borders, stranded in other countries and in some cases deported. At the same time, refugees who had gone through years-long approvals to come to the U.S. were also being barred. As word spread, protests were organized too in other cities including Chicago, Dallas and San Francisco.

At the airports, attorneys stood by to help those in need. In Newark, Attorney David A. Isaacson, who practices primarily immigration law in New York, said he learned of a Syrian citizen with a green card who arrived from Germany about 4 p.m. was still begin questioned two hours later, as his daughter waited for him to be released. The man was later released.

A Rutgers Ph.D. student who went to visit her ill mother in Syria and was on her way back also was having problems getting back into the country, said Attorney Ayanna Lewis-Gruss. She said the student's host family reached out to attorneys at the airport after the woman was stopped on a layover in Paris and was not allowed to fly to Newark.

At JFK Airport, the crowd grew to more than 1,000 people by Saturday evening as word spread of the protest.

"I was in disbelief. I just had to jump in my car and head out here," said Hillary Frileck, of Brooklyn.

"This is what really scares me. This resonates with me. One person (who was detained) works for us. These people have visas. It's important for us to speak up. We have to rise up. We can't just lay on our couches and think things will be okay." Emily Witt, of Brooklyn, said she viewed that the ban was a "bad moral decision" especially given that it was Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Families across New Jersey are feeling shock waves following the swift and sweeping order from President Donald Trump to bar refugees and nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

A woman from Lodi learned that her husband, from Yemen, who had his green card approved just last week after a two-year wait, will not be able to join her.

A Rutgers Ph.D. student who went to visit her ill mother in Syria was stopped on her way back during a Paris layover and barred from returning to Newark.

A U.S. citizen from Jersey City said the U.S. Embassy on Saturday had canceled a visa interview next month with his wife, a Syrian woman living in Turkey, who has been waiting to join him for a year and a half. It was supposed to be the last step before getting her visa.

"She is living in Turkey alone with three children. Her life is being suspended. Her life has been on hold waiting for the moment to be reunited," said the man, Marwan, who wanted only his first name used for fear that speaking to the press would hurt her case.

And the stories keep coming.

Nadia Kahf, an immigration attorney in Haledon, said she had received about two dozen calls and emails from clients confused and distraught over the order, which bans U.S. entry by residents of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for three months. The order, signed Friday, suspends the entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days and halts the admission of refugees from Syria indefinitely.

Trump said the order would help make Americans safer by keeping out "radical Islamic terrorists" from countries with terrorism until he can put a system of "extreme vetting" in place. Critics, though, say that the ban may be unconstitutional.

Trump's order is even more sweeping than early reports suggested, covering green-card holders and dual citizens, along with visitors, business travelers and students.

"Obviously, everyone is completely shocked," Kahf said. "People are saying, 'Is this even legal?' I didn't realize how horrible this was and how discriminatory ? I didn't realize the impact until I started getting these calls from clients."

She and other immigration attorneys are advising people to stay put.

"I am telling my clients that if you are from one of seven countries on the list and you are a student or you have a green card, do not leave the United States under any circumstances until we see how this plays out," she said.

Abed Ayoub, legal and policy director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said the organization had received more than 1,000 calls by noon Saturday from people who were either stranded or detained in the U.S. and abroad.

"What we have seen in less than 24 hours after the order was signed is complete chaos in the way this has been implemented," Ayoub said Saturday. "We've been contacted by many individuals who attempted to come into the country and were turned away at the border."

Those turned away include students traveling overseas, people attending funerals, and individuals who live and work legally in the U.S. and cannot get home to their families.

Ayoub said 11 people were being held in detention at John F. Kennedy International Airport as a result of the new order. There were reported detentions throughout the day in a smattering of other airports, including Atlanta, Houston and Philadelphia. But confusion seemed to reign among both travelers and border officials. In some places, travelers were detained, and in others, questioned and released, while there were reports that two Syrian families who flew into Philadelphia were made to board flights and return home.

Countless other travelers have been stranded abroad, barred from boarding planes to the U.S.

Marwan, a Jersey City resident, said he had a religious marriage with his wife, had applied for a fiancee visa, and planned to have an official marriage ceremony in the U.S. shortly after her arrival. They had produced hundreds of pages for her visa application to prove their relationship, including photos, financial records and copies of messages and chats to each other from the WhatsApp messaging program.

He loves her three children - two daughters ages 10 and 11 and a 4-year-old boy - as his own, he said in an interview from Turkey, where he was visiting his wife when the news about the ban broke.

"The children are too young. I wish I could have an explanation for our boy. I wish I could make things understandable to him. He keeps asking me, 'Baba, when are we going with you? Baba, why do you keep leaving?'" he recalled, using the Arabic word "baba" for father.

He said it hurt him to watch their efforts unravel when Trump signed the order, knowing there was nothing he could do about it.

"It was devastating, of course, and it made me wonder, it made me doubt the very essence of the U.S. democracy," he said.

Leila Amirhamzeh of Hackensack, director of development at New Jersey Citizen Action, said the ban is a huge concern for her and her family of Iranian heritage. Her father, a U.S. citizen, and her uncle, a green-card holder, planned to go to Iran after the recent death of her grandmother, but now they are unsure of what they will do.

"He is still wondering what to do, there is so much concern and a lot of confusion," she said. "He feels very uncomfortable and other Persian friends and family have the same concerns."

Trump's executive order led Iran to ban U.S. citizens from its country, according to news reports.

"Such a harsh action on the part of this president is not only contrary to what this country stands for, but it has also stoked fear and anger around the world," Amirhamzeh said.

Amirhamzeh, who volunteers to teach English to recently arrived Syrian students, said her pupils have expressed fear of what's to come.

"They are very scared and feel very unwelcome here in the U.S.," she said.

"It's so very upsetting, especially in the wake of last week's march to promote unity and inclusion and speak out against discriminatory practices like this that are fundamental challenges to what America is supposed to represent," added Amirhamzeh, who attended the Women's March on Washington last weekend.

Protests erupted across the country at airports over the ban, as lawyers rushed to aid those being detained, while the American Civil Liberties Union and several other groups have filed lawsuits challenging the ban. On Saturday night, a federal court judge in Brooklyn granted a partial stay that prevents people affected by the ban, who are already on the ground, from being deported. But individuals abroad may still be denied entry into the country.

Asaad Aref, who was born in Syria and now lives in Clifton, said his niece, a former Lyndhurst resident, last week left Saudi Arabia, where she and her husband have been living because of work. Aref said his niece is a Syrian citizen, with a permanent U.S residency and is in the process of becoming a U.S. citizen.

"Now with this man [Trump], that means she can't come back to see the family," he said. "She has a green card. We are worried about that."

Aref, a registered Republican, said he had voted for Hillary Clinton. He said the ban can have serious consequences for the U.S.

"He's hurting this country rather than helping it," Aref said. "The U.S. has troops in Syria and Iraq. How are you going to explain it if they turn around and say that they don't want U.S. citizens there, like Iran did today? He is a bully and Congress has to stop these ridiculous executive orders."

Shoppers on Main Street in South Paterson, home to a large Arab-American community, including many Syrians, had mixed emotions on Saturday about Trump's executive order on immigration that affects seven countries. Many identified themselves as U.S. citizens whose families are also in this country, and said that the suspension would have little impact on them personally.

Charles Aburomi of Clifton took time out from parking supervision at the South Paterson Plaza to say "nobody can predict" what the outcome of the 120-day suspension will be.

"We want this country to be great," Aburomi said. "I hope [Trump] will be the right person for the job."

Seidz Dzmailoski of New York City said he has lived in the U.S. all his life, and supported regulated immigration.

"You have to have the right credentials," he said.

Ayaan Khouri of Bloomf ield saw positive aspects to the ban.

"They want to stop the bad people," Khouri said.

But Fern Jungrau, visiting from West Virginia, was critical of the ban.

"This is America," Jungrau said. "Our borders should be open. I'm very disappointed."

Staff Writers Marsha A Stoltz and Patricia Alex contributed to this report.

"It's important for us to speak up. We have to rise up. We can't just lay on our couches and think things will be okay." HILLARY FRILECK, BROOKLYN RESIDENT

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