Hundreds protest for immigrants at O’Hare
Suburbanites and Chicagoans, Jews and Muslims, students and businesspeople packed O’Hare International Airport’s international terminal over the weekend two separate times to protest restrictions imposed on people entering the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries.
After a large protest Saturday night that slowly dispersed over Sunday morning, hundreds gathered inside and outside the international terminal for a second organized protest Sunday night.
“Last night we proved that the power of the people can make a difference and learned late in the evening that the O’Hare detainees had been freed,” said Hatem Abudayyah, of the Arab American Action Network, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. “Tonight, there will be thousands again out here calling on Trump to rescind his executive order and for the release of all detainees across Chicago and the country.”
An executive order by President Donald Trump on Friday barring some refugees from the country caused 18 travelers arriving Saturday at O’Hare to be detained and questioned by federal officers, immigration attorneys said. Those travelers were released, but Sunday lawyers volunteering to help immigrants were trying to figure out how many were detained the second day, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Politicians such as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Evanston and state Rep. Elaine Nekritz of Northbrook joined Sunday’s protest, which did not turn out to be as large as Saturday’s, the Sun-Times reported. Schakowsky cited Friday’s Holocaust Remembrance Day recognizing the 6 million Jews killed during a time “the U.S. sent people back to their death by closing the border.”
Ron Coppel, a Schaumburg businessman, said memories of his Jewish parents who came to the United States after World War II drew him to the protests at O’Hare.
“I’m an immigrant,” he said. “My father was in Auschwitz. My mother was in detention. They came here with me as a baby after the war. My parents are gone now, but my father did a lot of public speaking and the one thing he was said was, ‘You have to be an upstander. You cannot be a bystander.’
“I had to come down. I couldn’t sit on the couch,” added Coppel, who referenced the ocean liner St. Louis carrying Jews seeking refuge from Nazi Germany that was turned away from the U.S. in 1939.
Trump’s action, which the president called essential to protect Americans, brought swift pushback from civil rights and immigrant groups, who said it discriminated against Muslims. A federal judge temporarily halted the order late Saturday.
In the “long term our country will be fine,” Coppel said. But “short-term, this is horrible and against everything America stands for, and it’s based on irrational fear. The same thing was said about letting the Jews in back in the ’30s, and the Chinese and the Japanese … and the Irish.”
A crowd of mixed ages, races and professions cheered late Saturday when volunteer attorneys announced all the people detained at O’Hare had been released. But one woman from Syria who had come to visit her hospitalized mother was sent back, said Matt Pryor of the International Refugee Assistance Project.
Wheaton parents Sakina Fakhruddin and Kaiz Asif brought their 6-year-old, Husain, to the airport in solidarity with what they considered a breach of “what this country stands for.”
Fakhruddin, a software engineer, and Asif, a surgeon, are Muslims from India and legal permanent residents with green cards.
“I feel strongly that anyone who rightfully wants to come to this country should have the right to do so,” Fakhruddin said.
Asif added: “The reason everybody’s here (at the airport) is what this country stands for. Everyone believes what this country stands for is freedom for all and equal rights.”
Congressmen Raja Krishnamoorthi of Schaumburg and Brad Schneider of Deerfield both showed up at O’Hare Saturday night.
Krishnamoorthi, whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from India, said the president’s action hurt legal permanent residents.
“They applied legally, they’ve been vetted and they’ve been here, in many cases, for decades, and they were detained by their own country at the airport,” Krishnamoorthi said. “So many of our businesses rely on green card holders — how are we supposed to attract these people if they think they’ll be detained at the airport if they go abroad for a wedding, or just to show their baby to relatives?”
Schneider said: “The No. 1 role of government is to keep Americans and our country safe and we have to do that in a smart way. Religious tests, closing our borders to refugees from war and terrorists is not that way.”
The ban is also bad for businesses in the region, both Democrats said.
“Our district is fortunate to have a lot of companies that do business all over the world,” Schneider said. “They have partners, they have employees who may not be able to come into this country.”
Photo Credit: Raja for Congress Facebook Page