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Protests Against Immigration And Refugee Executive Orders Continue Across The Country


We're going to spend the program today focusing again on President Trump's executive order temporarily barring any refugees from resettling in the U.S. and barring people from six Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. for the next 90 days. Those from Syria are banned indefinitely. Throughout the day, protests continued around the country.


UNIDENTIFIED CROWD #1: (Chanting) Say it loud, say it clear, immigrants are welcome here. Say it loud, say it clear, immigrants are welcome here. Say it loud, say it clear...

MARTIN: That was the scene outside Los Angeles International Airport earlier this afternoon. Here in Washington, D.C., crowds gathered outside the White House and the Trump Hotel.


UNIDENTIFIED CROWD #2: (Chanting) Stand up, fight back. Stand up, fight back. Stand up, fight back.

MARIA ILINGWORTH: I believe that it's essential for the rest of us who can speak, who are not scared for our own personal rights and our safety, for us to speak out. This is what I served for, is to represent all Americans, not just a certain few.

POOYA ASALE: I'm Muslim. I'm an immigrant. I'm a citizen. I live in America. I came to build a life here. But now, you know, not allowing my family, my friends to come here, it's wrong.

AMIR BARATE: And if someone has a green card and has a life here and has traveled for business and all of a sudden they caught them by element of a surprise and can't come to their families or children - what kind of justice is that? What kind of presidential start is this?

MARTIN: Those were the voices of Maria Ilingworth (ph), Pooya Asale (ph) and Amir Barate (ph). In the next hour, we're going to hear a range of views from protesters and supporters of the executive action and people who are directly affected by it. But first we turn to NPR's John Burnett, who covers immigration, and NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Thank you both so much for being with us.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good to be here.


MARTIN: So, John, let's start with you. What's the latest on the administration?

BURNETT: Well, we have some news late today. We got something from General John Kelly who is homeland security secretary. He clarified that the president executive order exempts green card holders from these seven mainly Muslim countries. These are lawful permanent residents, many of whom have been in the United States for years. And they are just on vacations, and they are traveling in their home countries and they want to come home. So they have to apply for a waiver if they want to return to port of entry in the U.S. and so far Homeland security says they've received 170 of these waiver requests.

MARTIN: Well, speaking of ports of entry, though, you know - we know that there have been – protests as we've mentioned at airports around the country. What's been the scene at the airports today, John?

BURNETT: It's been chaotic. It's been crazy. There are lawyers who are looking for some of these bereaved clients. There's lots of protesters. But what we've been hearing is that the enforcement of this executive order has been very uneven between the different ports of entries at these airports, for instance, Chicago O'Hare, Atlanta Hartsfield, agents released detainees last night. At LAX and San Francisco, there were some that were still detained as of midday today.

So it could vary sort of immigration agent to agent. They have a lot of discretionary authority about how they can handle one traveler to another. A spokeman with Customs and Border Protection insists that they're honoring these new judicial orders with clear direction from headquarters, but at the same time we know the executive order remains enforced.

MARTIN: Mara, what are you hearing from the White House today?

LIASSON: Well, now that we know that green card holders will come in, that's kind of settled a conflict between DHS and the White House because we heard when this order was being drafted, DHS wanted green card holders exempted. The White House overrode them. So we're – also know that the president issued a statement today where he said that this wasn’t a Muslim ban and the media was falsely portraying it that way. He said this has nothing to do with religion, even though the executive order did say that religious minorities would be prioritized and, of course, that means Christians coming from majority Muslim countries.

So there was a lot of confusion. There were a lot of criticisms of the process, criticisms that the white house didn’t reach out to experts in the agencies because either they were in a rush or they were afraid that long-time civil service would sabotage their policy. A lot of confusion - but now it seems like some of that is being cleared up.

MARTIN: What about the political fallout from this? We've seen a - quite a few political leaders come out today, mainly Democrats very strongly initially, but then some republicans. And I take it that, you know, President Trump did not particularly appreciate the criticism from his Republican colleagues. What's been some of the political response so far?

LIASSON: Well, on the one hand, it did galvanize the opposition - Lots of spontaneous protests, Democrats holding a big demonstration at the Supreme Court today. On the other hand, most Republicans were silent, but you had some prominent voices like Lindsey Graham and John McCain, who the president criticized in a tweet - said they were very weak on immigration and they were trying to start World War III.

But you also have people like Bob Corker Center for Foreign Relations Committee chairman and Lamar Alexander saying this order was wrongly drawn - in other words, it shouldn't have ensnared green card holders. And they criticized the process and the fact that it was confusing and chaotic.

MARTIN: John, one more question for you. Whats next? Where does this go from here?

BURNETT: Well, there's a lot that starts to happen now. Really this is kind of the beginning of things. So we know this executive order is supposed to be temporary, meaning the admission of all the refugees from anywhere in the world is suspended for four months. In three months, the ban on travelers from those mostly Muslim seven countries expires. And that would cover students and visitors and no longer green card holders.

And in the meantime, we're going to see more lawsuits on behalf of some of these individual travelers that are arriving in these airpots. There are different deadlines for the federal court stays on the travel bans. The U.S. government has to respond in about two weeks to the New York order. They’ll be progress on that front. And then theres the constitutional question whether this travel violates the due process clause, and that has to be argued between the government and probably the ACLU. So, again, it's going to take some time to play out. And in the meantime, this chaos and confusion and the protests at the nation's international airports is bound to continue.

MARTIN: That's NPR's John Burnett, who covers immigration, and NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. John, Mara, thank you both so much for speaking with us.

LIASSON: Thanks for having me

BURNETT: It's a pleasure, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Southwest correspondent based in Austin, Texas, John Burnett covers immigration, border affairs, Texas news and other national assignments. In 2018, 2019 and again in 2020, he won national Edward R. Murrow Awards from the Radio-Television News Directors Association for continuing coverage of the immigration beat. In 2020, Burnett along with other NPR journalists, were finalists for a duPont-Columbia Award for their coverage of the Trump Administration's Remain in Mexico program. In December 2018, Burnett was invited to participate in a workshop on Refugees, Immigration and Border Security in Western Europe, sponsored by the RIAS Berlin Commission.
Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.
Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.