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Hundreds Gather at ABIA to Protest Trump's Refugee Ban

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez
Demonstrators at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on January 29, 2017.

Thousands are protesting President Donald Trump’s executive order banning refugees from seven predominately Muslim countries. While federal judges have temporarily stayed parts of that order across the country, notably a provision that would deport some refugees detained at airports, demonstrators have staged protests at airports across the country, including at Austin Bergstrom International Airport.

Officials from ABIA told KUT that no refugees have been detained under the order, but hundreds of demonstrators have gathered at the airport’s lower deck to protest Trump’s action, according to KUT’s Syeda Hasan.

While ABIA says it has no plans to detain any refugees arriving in Austin, some local attorneys say they’ve volunteered to provide counsel for any who may need assistance. Jim Marston, an attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund in Austin, said he and two other attorneys will help assist anyone who needs help. He told KUT that, while they're not immigration attorneys, they're hoping to provide whatever legal assistance they can.

“[W]e feel it’s our obligation as lawyers to help people who are being unfairly treated," Marston said. "Frankly, it’ll be very hard to [navigate the process], but we felt we’ve got to do what we can. We will help get experts in as soon as we can, but we’re here on an emergency basis.”

Those pledges of support were echoed by Austin City Council Members Greg Casar and Delia Garza, who joined demonstrators at the event. While speaking before demonstrators, Casar pledged that the Austin City Council would put forth an emergency budget item to provide legal aid to those affected by Trump's executive order this month. 

Credit Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT
A crowd of protesters at ABIA.

UT-Austin President Greg Fenves also released a statement supporting the 110 students, faculty and staff members from the affected countries, saying that they are an “essential part” of the university and cautioning them against international travel until the impact of the executive order are made clear.

Many of the UT community members from the affected countries are currently in the United States and we strongly encourage them to refrain from international travel at this time. To those who are abroad, please exercise caution and know that we are doing everything we can regarding your return to UT. My leadership team is monitoring the impact of the order. As its meaning is clarified, we will continue communicating with those affected.

Credit Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT
Austin City Council Member Greg Casar at the protest.

Meanwhile, similar protests are taking place at airports across Texas. At least 1,000 protesters have gathered outside Super Bowl-related events and others have gathered at George H.W. Bush International Airport, where five people have been reportedly detained, according to Houston Public Media.

In Dallas, demonstrators gathered outside of Dallas Fort Worth International Airport today and yesterday after nine people were detained, according to KERA News in Dallas. They were later released.

This post has been updated throughout.

Syeda Hasan is KUT's development and affordability reporter. She previously worked as a reporter at Houston Public Media covering county government, immigrant and refugee communities, homelessness and the Sandra Bland case. Her work has been heard nationally on public radio shows such as Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Marketplace.
Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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