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Protest held at Birmingham airport over President Trump's immigrant travel ban

Published: Jan. 29, 2017 at 8:54 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 29, 2017 at 9:07 PM CST
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(Source: Reshad Hudson/WBRC)
(Source: Reshad Hudson/WBRC)

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - A large group of people protested at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport against President Donald Trump's executive order banning people from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen from traveling to the U.S.

"I really feel like the administration left us with a false choice. We're being asked to choose between love of country and love of neighbor. I find it unacceptable," said Joe Genau, Pastor at Edgewood Presbyterian Church.

The protest wrapped up around 5 p.m. and was organized by the Birmingham Chapter of the National Action Network and the Outcast Voters League.

The protestors first gathered in the baggage claim area and progressed through the ticketing/security line area. They made this loop several times, chanting several slogans including 'Say it loud, say it clear, immigrants are welcome here." Many protestors held signs supporting immigrants and refugees. One sign read 'Love trumps hate.'

"I'm just horrified at the idea that we have turned our backs on America's core values. We are a nation of immigrants built by immigrants. To turn people away now who need us is criminal," said Cathleen Cummings.

"I came out here today because of what I see happening in our country just nine days since the inauguration and that's truly frightening," said Margaret Sudarshan.

Our crew on scene reported a peaceful protest and that the protestors and airport staff all appeared very calm. There was a period where a man wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat and some protestors were arguing about immigration and the travel ban.

We saw several clergy members and representatives from the Birmingham Islamic Society.

Several protestors shared stories about friends who are immigrants and why the U.S. should welcome immigrants and refugees.

"I have six children and four of them were born here in America," said Fatimatu Jalloh. "I want them to live happy with love and respect for one another. That's why I'm here. We want him [Trump] to stop. We want him to stop," she continued.

"I was born here," said Rupa Kitchens.

Kitchens U.S. citizen and said she is appalled about what's she's witnessing in the country.

"My entire family were obviously immigrants and this whole country are immigrants. No matter where you came from especially for those people who are still detained in the airport who came here legally and have been through this process of vetting for 18 to 24 months it's horribly unfair for them to have to go home especially when I went by due process," she said.

"We are not the enemy," said Fahim Qazi, who identified himself as a Muslim at the protest. "We are being demonized by the media, by certain extremist right wing groups who are obsessed with demonizing us, making us look bad. We have nothing against Christianity, we have nothing against any other religion. We are just Americans and we just want to live in peace with everyone and with equal rights."

The travel ban has created confusion and chaos at major airports across the country, with reports that several travelers from these countries have been detained. To add to the confusion, a federal judge issued a temporary block on part of the ban, saying that U.S. officials cannot deport travelers from the seven predominantly Muslim countries if they have a valid U.S. visa or an approved refugee application.

Birmingham doesn't have direct international flights that could result with refugees or immigrants being detained under the new administration's executive order.

"Even though you are safe just like I'm safe and I know all my friends inside but there are a lot of people who are out there who are not safe and cannot speak for themselves we have to stand with them," continued Kitchens.

According to the Associated Press, one of the most notable persons detained in the airport confusion was Hameed Khalid Darweesh. Darweesh served as a translator and assistant for the U.S. military in Iraq for 10 years. He fled the area after receiving death threats and according to CNN, had obtained a special visa to enter the U.S.

Two Alabama lawmakers have released statement on the president's travel ban.

Rep. Terri Sewell, Alabama's only Congress member, says the executive order is "unconscionable" and "inconsistent with American values."

Rep. Robert Aderholt shared his support for President Trump's order to increase vetting of immigrants as part of the travel ban.

You can read their full statements below.

Statement from Rep. Sewell:

"The President's most recent executive order halting the Syrian Refugee Program and barring entry into the U.S. based on religion is unconscionable, if not unconstitutional, and is inconsistent with our American values. This ill-conceived executive order does little to protect us from terrorism, but it does institutionalize a prejudice against Muslims by giving preference to minority Christians in Muslim countries and forbidding majority Muslim populations from entering into the United States on the basis of nothing more than the religion that they practice. Likewise, by banning the entry of all refugees, the Trump Administration dishonors the commitment we made to countless women and children from Syria that have successfully complied with our strict vetting process and now seek only refuge from the carnage of their own war-torn country.

All Americans, regardless of religion, should be offended by Trump's executive action since there is nothing stopping him from banning anyone of any religion from coming into or staying in the United States. The mass confusion and the protests at airports across this country further demonstrate that the President's executive order is not well reasoned or thoughtfully implemented.

I call on the President to immediately rescind this executive order and to work with Congress and our National Security professionals to find workable solutions to defeat terrorism while protecting religious freedoms. We are a nation of laws and of immigrants. The actions of the Trump Administration should reflect these American values."

Rep. Aderholt's statement:

"Quite frankly, I think it is commonsense for additional vetting to occur for the countries that are home to ISIS and AL Qaeda. The fact that some in DC are lost in the political correctness of this, is not that surprising.

As the President has said, this order is clearly not about banning Muslims, as only seven Muslim countries are on the list. There are currently more than 50 countries that are predominantly Muslim around the world. Therefore, more than 40 countries have no such restrictions."

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