Ahmad Sharifeh stood in the middle of a sea of protestors at Miami International Airport pleading through a blow horn for his friends and relatives in Syria who are barred from the U.S because of President Donald J. Trump’s “Muslim ban.”
Trump’s new executive order bans nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the country for the next 90 days, bans Syrian refugees indefinitely and suspends refugee migration for 120 days in an effort to “keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the U.S.”
“If you say ISIS is Islam, it’s like you’re saying KKK are Christians. KKK is not Christian and ISIS is not Islam,” Sharifeh said. “America is Islam. America is Jewish. This is what democracy is about.”
On Friday, Trump signed the executive order affecting nationals from Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Iraq and implementing a vetting system for green card holders.
Despite temperatures dipping into the 50s, over 300 protesters stretched across sidewalks outside terminals E and F, blocking doors, chanting and holding signs soaked from the rain.
The Miami protest was one of several airport protests around the nation since Trump made the announcement. In New York, protesters swarmed Kennedy International Airport demanding the release of two Iraqi refugees detained within hours of the legislation.
Haneen Ismail, a 20-year-old Muslim woman, whose parents were born in Palestine stood on the curb of the sidewalk feet away from a row of international flags holding a homemade sign that said, “WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO “ALL” LIVES MATTER.” The words were written on a white poster with a black permanent marker except for the word “ALL” which was written in red.
“I’m here for all my brothers and sisters from all the countries that have been ban from entry into U.S, and they’re just trying to get better lives. But unfortunately they can’t do that anymore,” she said.
Khatereh Zangoui, who was born in Iran, attended the protest with her sister and two children. She said as long as the ban is in place she wouldn’t able to visit her home country. Although Zangoui has American-born children, she will not be allowed back into the U.S. under Trump’s executive order.
“Saudi Arabia is one of the top countries with terrorism, but he has business in Saudi Arabia and he hasn’t touched them. The only group, I think, that are laughing and benefitting from is ISIS,” she said. “It’s a total joke.”
Florida International University graduate student and activist Alison Sardinas organized the MIA event through a Facebook event page.
“We are a city of refugees. We are a city of diversity, and we need to start embracing that,” she said. “I don’t think Mayor Gimenez is embracing it, so I think we need to—the populist of Miami needs to prove we care more than our government does.”
Last Thursday, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez signed a memorandum reversing the county’s status as an immigrant sanctuary. There is no legal definition for sanctuary cities, but the mayor said the county will “fully cooperate with federal government” when it comes to illegal immigration.
Many of the protestors at the airport were not happy with the mayor’s policy change. They raised their fists and chanted in unison, “Shame on you Gimenez.”
A man in a raincoat accompanied by his family, also held a red sign that said: “GIMENEZ DON’T SELL OUR SANCTUARY. What would your grandma say?”
The protest, which began at noon and ended around 4 p.m., was peaceful despite a disagreement between the crowd and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Jana Theodore, the ACLU volunteer at the airport, asked the crowd to take demonstrations downstairs across from the arrival terminals.
“For your safety, airport operations asked that you don’t block the doors,” she said.
The crowd responded by chanting: “This is our airport.” “We will not comply,” and “Aqui estamos y no nos vamos,” in Spanish.
Reporting was contributed by Andrea Franco
A Spanish version of this story was published on Diario For Cuba.