Travelers detained at NYC airport after immigration freeze

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Protesters gather outside Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York, U.S., January 28, 2017.  REUTERS/Andrew Kelly - RTSXTDX

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ALISON STEWART, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: The executive order does not restrict immigration from any of the top ten countries listed by the House of Representatives’ Homeland Security Committee in 2015 as suppliers of militants fighting for ISIS, nor does it restrict travel from countries that have been primary sources for al Qaeda operatives, like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, which was home to 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers.

“New York Times” reporter Nicholas Kulish is covering this story and joins me from JFK airport where he’s been since 2:00 a.m. to talk about it and the wider implications of the new Trump policy.

Nick, can you give us a little more information about Mr. Darweesh?

NICHOLAS KULISH, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Sure, he worked for about 10 years for the United States Army, and the United States government in Iraq. He thought that he was coming here for, you know, an easy trip with his visa to get into this country with his wife and his three children. Instead, he watched his family enter the United States while he remained detained overnight here at the JFK airport.

STEWART: And we should point out, there’s been a protest going on. That’s what’s happening behind you, right?

KULISH: There’s a pretty sizable protest going on behind me. It’s — you know, it’s funny. It was completely empty and silent, just a couple of lawyers working on briefs and motions here overnight. And now, you can hear behind me hundreds and hundreds of people protesting in favor of immigrants.

STEWART: And in terms of the legal aspect of this, what happens going forward for Mr. Darweesh, and there is another Iraqi man there, too, who has been detained?

KULISH: Yes, there is another Iraqi national hero who is hoping to join his wife and child in Texas, but he remains in detention, as do at least another 10 people. But no one really knows for sure how many would be immigrants and refugees are spread throughout JFK airport’s various terminals.

STEWART: It seems like it’s been a very confusing day at airports across the country. Have you spoken to anyone at TSA or Homeland Security or any officials who have told you about what they know and what the process is going to be?

KULISH: It feels as though as if there almost isn’t a process, as though the individual people trying to process and deal with the executive orders aren’t sure exactly how to interpret them. Some people think that it applies to green cardholders. Other people think that it only applies to refugees.

So, there’s a lot of — a lot of chaos, a lot of uncertainty. And I think that that leads to longer detention times, even for people who — who probably have a right to be in the country.

STEWART: There have been reports of American businesses calling people back. Google, one report says, has out 100 people who are traveling abroad who might be affected by this order. What other institutions are having issues, or potential issues?

KULISH: Well, certainly, we’ve heard that educational institutions are having a serious problem with undergraduates, graduate students, even faculty members who are unable to come back after the winter break. And, you know, but I think the biggest issue are really for families, for people who maybe in Iraq sold their homes, sold their cars, and are now trapped either here or in a third country with no certainty as to where they’ll end up.

STEWART: Nick Kulish from the “New York Times” — thank you so much for taking the time to join us.

KULISH: Thanks for having me.

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