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Trump's strong borders: Old, sick and grieving among victims of visa ban

Elderly women, infirm and green card holders all held at JFK airport in New York under Donald Trump's visa ban
A woman greets her mother, who was released from JFK Airport after hours in detention (Reuters)

A 75-year-old woman with Parkinson's disease. A 65-year-old green card holder with diabetes. A woman in her 60s handcuffed on arrival at 3am. These are some of the people among dozens stopped at New York's JFK airport on the executive order of Donald Trump.

The cases were highlighted on Monday by the New York Immigration Commission (NYIC), an activist group working for the rights of those moving to the United States, which said hundreds of lawyers were working at the airport to to help support the release of those held under the president's blanket ban on entry for people from seven Muslim majority countries.

JFK was the scenes of mass protests over the weekend after Trump signed his executive order banning citizens from several Middle East countries - which was criticised for its severity and led to several legal challenges. On Monday, the ban on green card holders - migrants with a legal right to settle in the US - was revised.

Protesters deluge New York's JFK airport to support refugees amid ban

The NYIC highlighted several of those being who were stopped at the border, and the conditions of their custody:

  • The 65-year-old Sudanese woman with diabetes, who held a green card, was detained upon her return from a trip to Cairo for a medical procedure and to Sudan to visit her family.
  • The 75-year-old woman from Libya with Parkinson’s disease had a pending green card application and was detained upon arrival after returning from seeing her sister in Libya, who was terminally ill and died during the visit. She had been granted permission to travel due to her sister’s illness, yet was still detained upon her return.
  • The Iraqi woman in her 60s was travelling alone to visit her son on a route with several layovers and arrived to JFK through Qatar on Saturday at about 3am. Trump's executive order was issued while she was in transit. She was grouped with five other Iraqis and handcuffed.
  • A 60-year-old Iranian travelling with his 30-year-old son to see a new grandchild born to his other son, a United States citizen. They were detained for 30 hours. No beds were provided. 

Riot police line up outside JFK airport in New York as protesters gather (Reuters)

NYIC said that through lawyers some of the cases were later resolved - the Iranian father and son, after being offered a choice of deportation or an indefinite time in custody, were granted a temporary stay.

"We were very nervous, they were not green card holders," said Maria Romani of the Brooklyn Defender Services, who helped represent the men.

"When the grandfather came out, he was so grateful. He said 'I love the people of New York'."

NYIC said that as of Sunday, 29 January, the total number of people who had been held at JFK airport was 52. Up to 20 remain detained and two have been confirmed deported.

I think people reacted to how fundamentally un-American the executive orders and values put forth are - Camille Mackler, NYIC

Despite the widespread understanding that green card holders were not going to be detained, there was a mix of green card holders, visa holders, and family members of United States citizens, the group said in a statement.

The group's director of legal initiatives, Camille Mackler, said: "I think people reacted to how fundamentally un-American the executive orders and values put forth are.

"This is what has propelled people to the streets, what has pushed people out there to protest and to keep showing up. Lawyers have a skill and want to put it to work – they came out to the point that we had to turn people away. This all has been overwhelming but amazing."

Protests in London

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people protested in London and other British cities on Monday against President Donald Trump's ban on entry to the United States by refugees and people from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Thousands of people, some holding placards reading "No to Racism, No to Trump", "Dump Trump" and "I stand with Muslims", joined a protest outside the Downing Street residence of Prime Minister Theresa May, who visited Trump in Washington on Friday.

Some chanted "Shame on May" for her offer to Trump of a state visit to Britain.

Nearly a 1.5 million people have signed a petition calling for Trump's planned British visit - which will involve lavish displays of royal pageantry and a banquet hosted by Queen Elizabeth - to be cancelled.

Middle East Eye covered the protest in a video that you can see below.