An estimated 5,000 protesters filled the sidewalks and roadways outside of Philadelphia International Airport Sunday to denounce President Donald Trump’s executive actions restricting entry into the country. It was the second straight night demonstrators gathered at the airport demanding that Trump lift his ban on immigration into the United States from several Muslim-majority countries.
Chanting “no hate, no fear, Muslims are welcome here,” the droves of protesters assembled peacefully down a long stretch of road outside Terminal B.
Protester Sanjiv Raman worried that this is just the beginning of difficult times for many foreign-born residents.
“Immigrants are being subjugated, and they are not being protected in this country just sucks. The very fact that there is a Muslim ban is just a start. This aggression will not stand,” Raman said.
The Philadelphia marchers joined many across the nation, as thousands of protesters swarmed airports in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and elsewhere.
For Jayna Patel of Philadelphia, Trump’s executive actions limiting foreign nationals from seven Muslim-dominated countries such as Syria is not a move driven by national security concerns.
“I feel like it stems from hate,” Patel said. “There’s a lot of hate going on right now. I think it has a lot to do with money, too. I think Trump has ties in other countries. The countries he’s doing business with, like Saudi Arabia, we don’t have bans from there, but we’ve had terrorists come from that country.”
— Bobby Allyn (@BobbyAllyn) January 29, 2017
President Trump also released a statement defending his action. “America is a proud nation of immigrants, and we will continue to show compassion to those fleeing oppression, but we will do so while protecting our own citizens and border,” it began.
“To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is not about religion. This is about terror and keeping our country safe. There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority-Muslim that are not affected by this order. We will again be issuing visas to all countries once we are sure we have reviewed and implemented the most secure policies over the next 90 days,” it continued.
On Saturday in Philadelphia, six Syrian-born Christian travelers with valid visas and finalized paperwork for green cards were detained and sent back to the Middle East, provoking condemnation on social media, but also criticism from U.S. Rep. Bob Brady and Mayor Jim Kenney, who said: “The Trump administration very well may have just given these families a death sentence.”
The six have had their visas cancelled, according to Jonathan Grode, an attorney for the family.
“We are working currently with representatives from the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the ACLU, to see what legal action we can take to rectify the situation as swiftly as possible,” Grode said.
The family has started a GoFundMe online fundraiser devoted to raising money to help bring the six to the United States.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf gathered with reporters on Sunday and doubled-down on his criticism of the president’s action.
“This is not who we are,” Wolf said. “The United States was set up to be a place where people could escape oppression. This is not a place where people come to experience oppression, and that’s what their family members experienced.”
Immigration lawyers scrambled to figure out whether there were any other travelers detained following the release of several on Sunday after attorneys and the U.S. Attorney’s Office struck an out-of-court deal to release them and allow them to continue to where they were going before being intercepted by immigration authorities.
“While we will have to continue to work to see this order completely defeated, this is an important victory against hate,” Kenney said of the detainees’ release.
From a legal perspective, the future of how Trump’s executive order will play out in Philadelphia remains fuzzy.
A federal judge in New York blocked part of the order on immigration on Saturday, although how immigration authorities would interpret or enforce the order is still being determined until the matter receives a hearing in February.
“It’s not really clear at this point to what extent they are willing to comply with the court’s directives,” said attorney Molly Tack-Hooper of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “I imagine that unless something changes on the national level, we will be starting the day with by reaching out to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the foreseeable future to see what they are willing to agree to for today.”