NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) —There were hugs and cheers at John F. Kennedy International Airport Sunday, and similar emotional reunions at airports around the country, as some travelers detained under President Donald Trump’s controversial executive order were slowly released.
Sources said nearly 400 travelers were impacted by the travel ban nationwide.
“We are people, we are not the government,” one man said. “We are not doing nothing.”
But the Department of Homeland Security said Sunday that an order from a federal judge in Brooklyn temporarily barring the U.S. from deporting people from nations subject to President Donald Trump’s travel ban will not affect the overall implementation of the White House executive action.
As CBS2’s Brian Conybeare reported, many detainees were relieved upon being released.
Returning from Iran late Sunday, SUNY Stony Brook student Vahideh Rasekhi was one of the detainees who had a heartfelt reunion with family at JFK after being held overnight due to the travel ban.
“I haven’t slept,” Rasekhi said “So exhausted – I was scared; super scared.”
Mohammad Zandin was been at JFK for more than 24 hours hoping to see his wife, Parisa, an Iranian chemistry student whom he said has a valid visa. She was finally released after her husband feared the worst.
“She told me she will be deported and cannot pass the border,” he said. “The plan was that she would come here and we could live together.”
Protesters remained at the JFK International Arrival Hall for much of the day Sunday, along with volunteer lawyers, all trying to make sure the judge’s emergency order to stop deportations was being followed.
“There may be waivers are asking people to waive their visa so they can be deported back in, so we’re trying to make sure that people aren’t signing documents particularly if they don’t have legal counsel present,” said volunteer attorney Stephen Rooke.
Attorney Suraj Patel said Customs and Border Patrol was not applying with the judge’s order to provide all the detainees’ names.
“Currently we’re getting no information whatsoever,” Patel said. “We don’t know how many people are back there. We’re not allowed back there.”
CBS2 has learned that as many as six detainees were still being held at JFK as of 11 p.m.
The situation, and the protests, caused confusion and chaos at JFK throughout the day Sunday.
“This has been a very fluid situation,” said Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Executive Director Pat Foye. “The federal authorities have put a chokehold on the release of information, including the identity of the number of detainees at JFK and airports across the country.”
Defending the ban on Sunday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said less than 1 percent of international travelers was affected the day before.
“There’s 109 people that were slowed down, over 300,000 foreign visitors that came in,” he said.
The DHS also said the court order affected a relatively small number of travelers who were inconvenienced by security procedures upon their return.
“Approximately 80 million international travelers enter the United States every year. Yesterday, less than one percent of the more than 325,000 international air travelers who arrive every day were inconvenienced while enhanced security measures were implemented,” the department said in a statement.
Stephen Miller, a senior adviser to the White House, said that nothing in the Brooklyn judge’s order “in any way impedes or prevents the implementation of the president’s executive order which remains in full, complete and total effect.”
Chants turned into cheers outside federal court in Brooklyn on Saturday night when a judge put in place a temporary stay, stopping the detentions.
Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said he spoke with Homeland Security Secretary Gen. John Kelly, who assured him the New York court order would be complied with.
“One little bit of small good amidst all this, is there are now 42 Americans at our airports that are detained that fit under the court order that the judge issued last night — there was a great deal of worry that they would be sent back, the order wouldn’t be obeyed — Secretary Kelly assured me the order will be obeyed and those 42 will be processed and allowed to come to America,” Schumer said.
U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly issued the order after lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union filed a court petition on behalf of people from seven predominantly Muslim nations who were detained at airports across the country as the ban took effect.
Trump’s executive order bans refugees and immigrants from seven nations linked to terrorism: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Sudan and Somalia.
Hameed Khalid Darweesh, an interpreter for the U.S. military in Iraq, was one of at least 12 immigrants detained by Customs and Borders Patrol under the ban.
He was granted permission to relocate to the United States, but was detained along with another traveler from Iraq named Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi after arriving at JFK late Friday night.
“I support the U.S. government on the other side of the world. But when I came here, they say no and they treat me as I break the rules or do something wrong. I surprised,” Darweesh said.
Upon his release, Darweesh told a waiting crowd that “America is the greatest nation, the greatest people in the world.”
“This is completely un-American,” Andre Segura, attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, said. “This is an unlawful order and it is making our communities much more at risk and not safer.”
PHOTOS: Protestors Rally At JFK
Attorneys, the ACLU and other groups are reporting widespread non-compliance among border patrol agents who are allegedly violating the court order, WCBS 880’s Kelly Waldron reported.
In spite of the court order barring the U.S. from deporting people subject to the executive action, Marilena Hincapie, of the National Immigration Law Center, says immigrants and refugees are still being threatened upon arrival.
“We’ve often seen the border patrol blocking access to attorneys at the airports that are trying to see the individuals that are detained,” Hincapie told WCBS 880’s Kelly Waldron.
Just one look at the faces of family members who were waiting at JFK for word on their loved ones told the story without having to say the words, Waldron reported.
Mohammad was in Terminal 1, where his 68-year-old aunt had arrived from Saudi Arabia.
“She’s in bad condition,” he said. She has blood pressure and diabetes. We don’t know what’s going on.”
Concern also grew to frustration.
“Everything was legal. Everything,” one man waiting for his mother-in-law from Iran said. “And the thing is we just don’t have any contact with her and that’s really bad.”
Late Sunday afternoon, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the creation of a confidential toll-free hotline through which New Yorkers may report family members, friends, relatives or colleagues believed to be missing or detained on flights entering the state.
“As New Yorkers who live in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, we welcome new immigrants as a source of energy and celebrate them as a source of revitalization for our state,” Cuomo said in a statement. “We will ensure New York remains a beacon of hope and opportunity and will work to protect the rights of those seeking refuge in our state.”
The New York Department of State hotline can be reached at (888) 769-7243. It will obe running 24 hours a day, seven days a week and will offer translation services.
Meanwhile, Trump issued a statement Sunday afternoon saying his travel ban is not a “Muslim ban” and saying the only purpose is to keep America safe.
“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. America has always been the land of the free and home of the brave,” Trump said in the statement. “We will keep it free and keep it safe, as the media knows, but refuses to say.”
Trump said his policy was “similar” to a six-month ban on refugees from Iraq that was put in place by President Barack Obama in 2011. He added that the seven countries he named in the executive order were “the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror.”
“To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting,” Trump said in the statement. “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.”
Earlier in the day Sunday, Trump used different language in defending his order, tweeting: “our country needs strong borders and extreme vetting, NOW. Look what is happening all over Europe and, indeed, the world — a horrible mess!”
Meanwhile, there may also be another wrinkle in the travel ban. Late Sunday, source said some foreign travelers might have to turn over their cellphone contact lists and social media account information, or be sent home.
The Department of Homeland Security said it is reviewing waivers on a case-by-case basis. In the meantime, anyone with a green card is being urged to fly into Boston where a judge ruled against detainment and for release.
Canada is taking a different approach, saying refugees are welcome north of the American border. Canadian President Justin Trudeau said he intends to talk to Trump about the success of the policy. Trudeau is expected to visit the White House in the future.
Trump is scheduled to speak Sunday with King Salman of Saudi Arabia and with the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
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