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Snapshots from AFSC staff: Resistance to the Muslim ban

Late Friday evening, Trump signed an executive order ending the Syrian Refugee program, suspending visas from seven majority-Muslim countries, and temporarily halting refugee resettlement. The following day, refugees from war-torn Syria, people with green cards, and travelers with valid visas started to get detained at airports around the country and even sent back to their point of origin. 

The public outcry was swift and enormous, with demonstrations taking place at airports and other places all over the country. AFSC staff participated and helped to organize many of these events. Here is a snapshot:


Washington, D.C. Metro Area

Photo: AFSC/Dina El-Rifai 

As a Muslim immigrant woman and an advocate for social justice, I am terrified, disappointed, heartbroken, outraged, and exhausted. I was overcome with emotion as I and tens of thousands of allies marched from the White House to the U.S. Capitol building. Every Muslim I know is in pieces. My messages are overwhelmed with friends fearing for their family members and loved ones who they may now never be able to see again.

Born in Egypt and becoming a naturalized citizen in high school, I recognize—and all Muslims must recognize—that our status, our citizenship, does not protect us. Trump's Muslim ban also complicates things for green card holders and permanent residents, and soon enough, could undoubtedly be expanded to include naturalized citizens. I, and so many Muslims, recognize this undeniable possibility. We are not safe. We are targets of violence, surveillance, and violations of our civil liberties, here and abroad. Reach out to us, stand with and for us, and center us.—Dina El-Rifai, AFSC Office of Public Policy and Advocacy


Photo: AFSC/Kathryn Johnson

The mood at Dulles Airport in Virginia when I was there Sunday night was positive as crowds gathered around the international arrivals terminal with signs, flowers, food, and balloons. Cheers went up each time travelers exited customs and these were interspersed with chants of “No Ban. No Wall. Sanctuary for all!” and “No Hate. No Fear. Immigrants are welcome here.”

Also present were scores of attorneys offering free legal help and asking passengers if they witnessed anyone being detained. The Department of Homeland Security was refusing to release information about detentions or to allow detained immigrants and refugees to contact attorneys. So, for quite a while, this was one of the only ways to know who the government was letting through. The action at Dulles was in addition to a massive rally at the White House, marches to Congress and Trump Hotel in D.C. on Sunday, and a vigil at Customs and Border Protection headquarters on Monday morning. An estimated 2,000 people also gathered at Baltimore Washington International Airport Sunday night. —Kathryn Johnson, Office of Public Policy and Advocacy



Photo: Daniel Suave

Between 400 and 600 people from all races, nationalities and religions, joined in protest and prayer at Denver International Airport on Saturday, Jan. 28 in response to a midday call to action from Coloradans impacted by travel ban and refugee reduction order issues by President Trump. The group was repeatedly threatened with arrest for solicitation for holding signs. The group held the airport welcome area for more than two hours, singing and chanting. As arrests were about to begin, those gathered formed a ring of protection around Muslim brothers and sisters as they prayed Mahgrib. The whole airport fell silent and still for those minutes. After, the bulk of protesters agreed to move outside to a plaza. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the bulk of the protestors, mainly African and Black protesters continued to hold the welcome area. —Jennifer Piper, AFSC Colorado Immigrant Rights Program



Photo: Sarah Jane Rhee

Thousands of people poured into the international terminal of Chicago's O'Hare airport, shutting down traffic and even one runway on Saturday night. The protest was called by the Arab American Action Network, who made it clear that the protest would continue until all travelers being held in detention by U.S. Customs & Border Patrol be released.

After the formal press conference ended, young Muslim, Iranian, Arab, Black and Latinx women led several hundred protesters inside the terminal, which disrupted business as usual. They shared heartfelt stories to the crowd gathered, and messages of pain and solidarity took the evening. The temporary stay was announced several hours into the protest, but nobody budged, recognizing that there's a difference between announcements and facts on the ground (aka the detainees being released).

Back outside, hundreds of protesters sat in the street, blocking all five lanes of traffic at the terminal and held that space until reports of more detainees being released. Over five hours after the protest had begun, the lawyers present announced that all 18 detainees, including several children, had indeed been released. 

O'Hare saw another several thousand protesters on Sunday night, as people continuing to arrive from countries on the banned list continued to be held in secondary detention at the airport.  Where Saturday night was marked by numerous pink hats from the women's march, Sunday nights protest gained its power from the hundreds of Arab and Muslim community members who had turned out—including many families with children. When Mayor Rahm Emmanuel asked to speak to the crowd, organizers refused, telling him to expand Sanctuary first! —Debbie Southorn, AFSC Wage Peace Program, Chicago


Newark, NJ and New York, NY 

AFSC legal staff Kellie MacDonald, surrounded by New Jersey elected officials and others. Photo: AFSC/Newark

I've never been prouder of the staff of the AFSC's Immigrant Rights Program than I was this weekend. We had attorneys at JFK and Newark Airports to provide legal assistance and support, provided Know Your Rights presentations to immigrant communities in New Jersey, organized a vigil at the Hudson County Correctional Facility against the detention and deportation of Haitian immigrants who are being detained at that facility, and participated in and spoke at a protest at the Elizabeth Detention Center against the anti-immigrant, xenophobic, and Islamaphobic executive orders issued by President Trump and against the systemic detention of both recently arrived asylum seekers and longtime residents of New Jersey. We are now coordinating shifts of volunteer attorneys at Newark Airport where they can be on the ground to intervene if any individuals are detained at the airport to ensure compliance with the nationwide stay and to provide representation where necessary. —Nicole Miller, AFSC Immigrant Rights Program 


San Francisco

Photo: AFSC/John Lindsay-Poland

About a thousand people turned out at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday, and more on Sunday until everyone was released. This photo is part of a wall where people left their handmade signs with a range of messages of solidarity, determination, humor, anger, and love. —John Lindsay-Poland, AFSC Wage Peace Program



In response to the Trump Administration's announced Muslim ban, Council on Islamic-American Relations Massachusetts held a protest in Copley Square at the site of the Khalil Gibran plaqueGibran was an immigrant from Lebanon. An estimated 20,000 people attended. —Gabriel Camacho, AFSC Project Voice


Pittsfield, Mass.

Photo: AFSC/Jeff Napolitano

We had a huge pro-immigrant rally in Pittsfield, chanting "No hate! No fear! Immigrants are Welcome Here!" —Jeff Napolitano, AFSC Western Massachusetts



Photo: Larry Gindhart

On Friday, Jan. 26, leaders from Indiana Undocumented Youth Alliance (IUYA), Muslim Alliance of Indiana, Jewish Voice for Peace - Indiana, and the Indiana office of AFSC gathered in solidarity with community members to express dissent for the new administration’s executive order interpreted as and effectively meant to act as a Muslim ban.

Dozens of Hoosiers came together on the plaza at City Market to proclaim #NoWallNoBan, in solidarity with direct actions and protests across the country. Cinthya Perez spoke on behalf of IUYA, highlighting struggles undocumented immigrants have faced long before the discriminatory executive order was issued. "Our undocumented community has been a target for many years. Under the Obama administration more than 2.5 million people were deported or forced to leave the country," she said.

Rima Shahid, executive director of Muslim Alliance of Indiana, said, "The United States of America was established as a beacon of light for those escaping persecution in their own homes, and we will not stand for intolerance in our country." The community-led, faith- and hope-filled sentiment was a common thread for each speaker and those in attendance. Malkah Bird of Jewish Voice for Peace remarked, "Judaism and other faith traditions command us clearly: Love our neighbors. Welcome the stranger."

"We need sanctuary, not walls," proclaimed Erin Polley, program coordinator of AFSC Indiana, to loud applause. Jesus Ramirez of IUYA rallied the crowd with a rousing closing chant, "Stand up! Fight back! All immigrants are welcome here!" These four organizations among others with support from community members statewide are committed to making Indiana an inviting and safer place for all travelers, immigrants, and refugees—Hoosier hospitality at its finest. —Elle Roberts, AFSC Indiana Peacebuilding Program



Photo: AFSC/Ronna Bolante

In Philadelphia, staff mobilized their networks to take part in protests at Philadelphia International Airport in response to the Muslim ban. Some of us responded to an emergency call for protesters at the airport on Saturday night, which brought the mayor, one of our senators, and Pennsylvania's governor—all of whom denounced the ban and committed to working to stop it.

The Sunday afternoon demonstration drew more than 6,000 to the airport. SEPTA trains to the airport were packed, and many who drove to the airport found themselves sitting in traffic, or showing up to the rally much later than planned. The event, which was scheduled to take place inside the international terminal, overflowed outside of the baggage claim area, with protesters chanting "Show me what America looks like. This is what America looks like." and "Philly is a sanctuary city."   —Patricia DeBoer, AFSC Strategic Initiatives


Durham, North Carolina

Photo: AFSC/North Carolina

I attended a press conference in Durham and in addition, there was a huge turn out at the Raleigh Durham airport on Saturday. They had a permit for 150, and 1,500 showed up!

—Lori Fernald Khamala, AFSC North Carolina Immigrant Rights Program