O'HARE — Activists and elected officials returned to O'Hare Airport Sunday to demand a reversal of President Donald Trump's executive action restricting travel from seven majority-Muslim countries, while a phalanx of volunteer attorneys offered to help families of detained passengers looking for legal recourse.
Trump's order, signed on Friday, suspends all U.S. refugee resettlement for 120 days, bars Syrian refugees indefinitely, and blocks travel into the U.S. for 90 days for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It will also stop green card holders from those seven countries from entering the U.S. again if they travel abroad.
Around 8:15 p.m. Saturday, a federal judge in Brooklyn temporarily halted the deportation of visa-holders arriving at airports around the country.
On Sunday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security released a statement vowing to let green card holders into the country "absent significant derogatory information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare."
Still, attorneys were scrambling to gather information on the detainees, many of whom were held for "five, eight or 10 hours" before being let through or sent back to their countries of origin, according to Matt Pryor, a lawyer with the International Refugee Assistance Project.
"We have no idea how many people are being held back there, what kind of conditions they're being held in, and whether they have access to legal counsel," Pryor said. "Right now we're just trying to talk to families and figure out who's being detained."
Attorneys estimated the number of detainees between two and 50, depending on the time, as international flights continued to land with new travelers. It was unclear how many of those detained were green card holders, and how many were visiting on temporary visas.
Meanwhile, outside the terminal, a string of elected leaders and civic organizes whipped up hundreds of demonstrators with chants and affirmations of solidarity.
"Welcome to the resistance!" Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) called into a portable microphone, eliciting a roar from the thick crowd.
"Today, all of us here are refugees," Schakowsky said. "Today, everyone here is a Muslim...this is what America looks like."
She was followed by leaders including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Ald. Ricardo Muñoz (22nd) and Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Illinois), who wore a pink "pussy hat" and called on immigration officers to give detainees access to lawyers.
Demonstrators amassed at the airport, both inside and outside the arrivals terminal.
O'Hare now. pic.twitter.com/8pHIXK1u9t— Keith Phipps (@kphipps3000) January 29, 2017
After a swell of protesters gathered at John F. Kennedy Airport late Saturday morning, similar demonstrations cropped up at international airport terminals around the country, including Dallas, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
At 9:40 p.m. Saturday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel released a statement saying Trump's executive order had "tarnished America’s standing as a beacon of hope for the free world," and calling for the release of green card holders who were detained.
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