Thousands gathered in downtown Seattle in ongoing protests of President Trump’s executive order barring new refugees and limiting immigration from some Muslim majority countries.
The disappointment and fear that rolled through immigrant communities in the wake of President Trump’s executive order barring refugees and limiting immigration from seven Muslim majority countries drew thousands Sunday night to a peaceful demonstration in Seattle’s Westlake Plaza.
It was the second straight night of protests in Western Washington, with a huge crowd flooding the public areas of the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac) on Saturday after the ban was announced.
Civil libertarians and volunteer attorneys from some of the city’s most prestigious law firms helped win the release of two men — citizens of Yemen and Sudan — who had been detained by agents from Customs and Border Protection at the airport and not allowed to enter the United States. The lawyers obtained an emergency temporary restraining order (TRO) preventing their removal from the country pending a hearing this week.
Meanwhile, thousands stood in chilly weather and endured an on-again, off-again drizzle in downtown Seattle on Sunday to hear speakers — including Gov. Jay Inslee and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray — denounce the order and the Trump administration for imposing it.
Washington Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib offered the crowd a powerful and personal perspective.
His parents emigrated from Iran, he said, and would not have been able to come to the United States had Trump’s order been in place when they left. Likewise, his Iranian grandmother would not have been able to visit him after he was diagnosed with the cancer that cost him his sight.
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“I care about those people who are affected by this like they are my family, because some of them are,” he said.
Refugees and immigrants are “every bit as American” as Trump is,” he said.
“Nobody loves this country like the people who leave everything behind to earn their place in this country,” he said.
“We need to stand up”
Among the protesters was Mick Cowles and his wife, who drove in from Anacortes. Cowles said he was a career civil servant and considers Trump’s actions a violation of the Constitution.
As a government worker, “We don’t pay allegiance to the commander in chief,” he said. “When the Constitution is attacked, we need to stand up.”
He said he was especially concerned that he had not heard more from Republican members of Congress.
“We’re just fed up,” added his wife, Patty Munday. “I read the paper this morning, and I said,’ We’ve got to go for it.’ ”
James Campanelli, of Shoreline, held a sign displaying religious symbols from around the world.
He said it is a mistake to turn away refugees, and he worried the unprecedented bans on entry to the United States might alienate people and countries who have helped us.
As crowds gathered in Westlake, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray briefed reporters at the airport on her “disappointment” over the order and how it is disrupting the lives of immigrants, refugees, students, workers and family members whose futures are now in limbo.
She remarked that two men were released Sunday morning after intervention by attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP). She said another man who arrived in Washington to visit family members was held and then placed back on a plane to Vienna.
Generally speaking, immigrants are people who want to move to the United States, often through legal means, while refugees are people who have fled their home country and are seeking asylum.
“This is someone who went through the process, had legal paperwork, had the paperwork in his hand, got on the plane believing that he was going to see his family here in the airport at baggage claim when he landed,” Murray said.
“That didn’t happen,” Murray said. “He was put back on the plane and is currently in Vienna, and it is unclear what will occur to him from there.”
Sen. Murray called the events of Friday night “appalling” and “un-American.”
She said she had been unable to get in touch with President Trump’s administration.
The Trump order suspends entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, and bars Syrian refugees indefinitely. It also halts, for 90 days, entry into the United States for citizens of these Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Trump says the order was necessary to protect the country from a terrorist attack.
“I am so frustrated that an administration, barely a week into being put into office, issued an executive order that impacted human beings around this country, and the face of this country and who we are to the world, without taking the time to look at what they were doing,” Murray said.
Judge sets hearing
The Westlake gathering marked the second night of protests against the executive order.
Thousands made their way to Sea-Tac airport Saturday night after it was learned that the Department of Homeland Security had detained several individuals who were trying to enter or return to the United States.
Attorneys from the ACLU and the NWIRP obtained an emergency order from U.S. District Judge Thomas Zilly on behalf of two men who were detained.
One was a citizen of Sudan living in the United Arab Emirates who was traveling to Las Vegas for a convention. The other was a Yemeni citizen who was born in Saudi Arabia coming to the United States to visit family, according to NWIRP Executive Director Jorge Baron.
After they were taken into custody by agents from Customs and Border Patrol, “they were able to watch coverage of the protests at the airport,” ACLU spokesman Doug Honig said. “They both expressed gratitude for those expressions of solidarity” and said they were thankful for the intervention of several political figures to help arrange their release.
Zilly is a senior federal judge who has been on the bench in Seattle since his appointment by President Reagan in 1988. He set a hearing on the emergency TRO — which names as defendants President Trump and the Department of Homeland Security — for Friday and ordered both sides to file briefs on the issue.
The airport protest dwindled into the early hours Sunday, when Port of Seattle law- enforcement officers deployed pepper spray and arrested more than 30 people for obstructing after some protesters attempted to keep passengers from reaching their gates. Seattle police, who were asked to help Port of Seattle police, said none of its officers arrested anyone nor used pepper-spray.
Protests also were held Sunday at the Peace Arch in Blaine, at the U.S.-Canadian border and at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.
Attempts to measure the extent and impact of the refugee ban were not successful. Rose Richeson, the Northwest spokeswoman for ICE, referred all requests for information on overall numbers of people detain to a Customs and Border Patrol email address, which did not respond.