Travelers detained at Seattle airport released from custody

by: Associated Press, KIRO 7 News Staff Updated:

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee blasted President Donald Trump's executive order banning people from certain Muslim-majority nations as "unjustifiable cruelty" Saturday, and thousands of pro-immigration protesters gathered at Seattle-Tacoma Airport.

Attorneys from the ACLU and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project said a Somali national was not allowed to enter and two other people were detained at the airport.

On Sunday morning, officials with the Port of Seattle said individuals were no longer being detained at Sea-Tac Airport and were "free to continue their travels."

Here are updates from the protests and leaders: 

Trump signed an executive order Friday that bans legal U.S. residents and visa-holders from seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the U.S. for 90 days and puts an indefinite hold on a program resettling Syrian refugees.

The ban has sparked protests around the country.

A federal judge Saturday granted an ACLU request to temporarily stop the detention of people at JFK based on Trump's executive order, CBS News reported.

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson issued the following statement: 

"The President's executive order on immigration is un-American and unconstitutional. My team and I are working this weekend to explore our options to oppose this illegal action. The rule of law applies to everyone — including President Trump — and I will use the authority of my office to hold him accountable to it." 

Washington state leaders and officials gathered Saturday afternoon at Sea-Tac Airport to criticize the executive order.

“First I want to address the gross cruelty of this," Inslee said. "These are people … who have crossed the abyss from disaster to hope. Who are ready and landed in the home of the brave. ... We have a family here today who I just met, a citizen of the United States. The Donald J. Trump administration allowed her husband to get on a plane in Vienna, waiting to get in the arms of his wife but didn’t let him go the six feet across this gate to embrace his wife."

The ACLU of Washington and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project also sent attorneys to Sea-Tac Airport Saturday after hearing people were being detained there. 

On Sunday, the ACLU of Washington released the following statement:

Two clients represented by Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, the ACLU of Washington and collaborating attorneys from MacDonald Hoague and Bayless and Pacifica Law Group have been released from the custody of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at SeaTac airport.  One of the clients is an engineer originally from Sudan but now residing in the United Arab Emirates and was attending an engineering conference in the U.S.  The other individual who was detained by CBP is a Yemeni citizen who was born in Saudi Arabia and was coming to visit family here in the U.S.  Both clients expressed their gratitude for the support of so many Americans.  While in the custody of CBP, they were able to watch coverage of the protests at the airport and they both expressed gratitude for those expressions of solidarity.  We are grateful to the many political leaders who urged their release.

A federal law enforcement official who confirmed the temporary ban said there was an exemption for foreigners whose entry is in the U.S. national interest. It was not immediately clear how that exemption might be applied.

Trump's order exempts diplomats.

Those already in the U.S. with a visa or green card will be allowed to stay, according to the official, who wasn't authorized to publicly discuss the details of how Trump's order was being put in place and spoke only on condition of anonymity.

(AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
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Customs and Border Protection was notifying airlines about passengers whose visas had been canceled or legal residents scheduled to fly back to the U.S. Airlines were being told to keep them off those flights.

Trump's order barred all refugees from entering the U.S. for four months, and indefinitely halted any from Syria. He said the ban was needed to keep out "radical Islamic terrorists."

The next group of refugees was due to arrive in the U.S. on Monday, but the official said they would not be allowed into the country.

The president's order immediately suspended for four months a program that last year resettled in the U.S. roughly 85,000 people displaced by war, political oppression, hunger and religious prejudice. An immediate 90-day ban was put in place for all immigration to the U.S. from the seven Muslim majority nations.

Trump's order singled out Syrians for the most aggressive ban, ordering that anyone from that country, including those fleeing civil war, are indefinitely blocked from coming to the U.S.

"We want to ensure that we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas," Trump said as he signed the order at the Pentagon. "We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country and love deeply our people."

Trump's ban on asylum-seekers came down even as Iraqis endangered by work for the United States in their home country were midflight to their hoped-for refuge in the United States. As a result, they and countless other refugees, their families and aid workers scrambled Saturday as Muslim travelers were turned back on arrival at U.S. airports or blocked from boarding flights to America.

Organizations including the International Refugees Assistance Project, which helps former Iraqi translators for the U.S. military and other refugees seeking entry to the United States, and other organizations aiding asylum-seekers, rushed translators and lawyers to airports to try to help U.S.-approved asylum-seekers already on their way to the country as Trump's ban came down.

"I've got one arriving at JFK in 10 minutes. We'll see how that goes," Becca Heller, director of that refugee group, said Friday night about one man on his way. He is the Iraqi husband of a woman who had fled to the United States recently to escape threats to her life over her work for U.S. officials in Iraq.

Trump said the halt in the refugee program was necessary to give agencies time to develop a stricter screening system. While the order did not spell out what additional steps he wants the departments of Homeland Security and State to take, the president directed officials to review the refugee application and approval process and find any more measures that could prevent those who pose a threat from using the refugee program.

The U.S. may admit refugees on a case-by-case basis during the freeze, and the government will continue to process requests from people claiming religious persecution, "provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual's country."

In an interview with CBN News, Trump said persecuted Christians would be given priority in applying for refugee status.

As a candidate, Trump called for a temporary ban on all Muslim immigration to the U.S. He later shifted his focus to putting in place "extreme vetting" procedures to screen people coming to the U.S. from countries with terrorism ties.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations said it would challenge the constitutionality of the executive order.

During the past budget year, the U.S. accepted 84,995 refugees, including 12,587 people from Syria. President Barack Obama had set the refugee limit for this budget year at 110,000.

According to Trump's executive order, he plans to cut that to 50,000. Refugee processing was suspended in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks and restarted months later.

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