At least 1,000 people gathered for an “emergency rally” at O’Hare Airport on Saturday to protest President Trump’s executive action barring refugees from entering the United States, an order that caused chaos and outrage as several travelers were detained in Chicago and at airports across the country.
Signed Friday, Trump’s order halts all refugee resettlement into the U.S. for 120 days, imposes an indefinite ban on refugees from Syria, and suspends entry of immigrants from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen – all Muslim-majority nations – for 90 days.
The order also caps the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. at 50,000 people in the fiscal year 2017 – less than half the 110,000 limit set by Barack Obama for 2016.
The program suspended by the order resettled roughly 85,000 people displaced by war, political oppression, hunger and religious prejudice in the U.S. over the last year.
Saturday’s rally at O’Hare was organized by several advocacy groups including the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, the Council on American-Islamic-Relations Chicago, the Arab American Action Network, Jewish Voice for Peace and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrants and Refugee Rights.
The protest was planned for 6 p.m. in O’Hare’s International Terminal 5, according to a Facebook event, though dozens of people arrived at the airport hours earlier, including several volunteer attorneys who gathered to assist travelers entangled in the ban.
A total of 16 people were being held at O’Hare under the order on Saturday, according to the immigration lawyers, correcting reports that the number of detainees was as high as 18.
An attorney representing one family said in the early evening that a 10-month-old child was among those detained.
Some of those detainees hold permanent residency “green cards,” according to the attorneys, have lived in the U.S. for years and were attempting to return home after visiting family overseas.
All 16 people being held at O’Hare were released by 10:30 p.m., attorneys said, and were greeted by resounding cheers from crowds of activists gathered in protest.
Trump signed the order to enact what he called “extreme vetting,” to keep “radical Islamic terrorists” out of the country.
However, several groups immediately announced plans to file legal challenges against the order, and on Saturday evening, a federal judge issued an emergency stay, blocking the government from deporting anyone with a valid visa being detained at U.S. airports under the order.
The injunction was granted in response to a request filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, issued as protests erupted at airports nationwide and Democratic elected officials in Chicago and across the U.S. condemned the measure.
“The actions by President Trump turn on the head upside down what we stand for,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at a news conference held by CAIR-Chicago on Friday.
“This is not about vetting. This is about religious discrimination and codifying it into law, and as such we stand against it,” CAIR-Chicago executive director Ahmed Rehab added.
The rally at O’Hare Saturday was just one of several protests around the country, including at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, where 12 refugees were detained.
Among them was Hameed Jhalid Darweesh, who worked for the U.S. government in his home country of Iraq for more than a decade. Darweesh, who fulfilled a number of roles for the U.S., including as an interpreter for the Army, was released from custody after being held for about 18 hours.