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Thousands protest immigration ban at BWI

Rachel Baye

Roughly 2,000 people packed BWI Airport’s international terminal Sunday night to protest President Donald Trump’s recent executive order restricting immigration.

People came from across the Washington and Baltimore metro areas. There were families with young children, and people of all races and religions.

Shakeela Shabbir came to the protest from Ellicott City with her husband and two kids, who are 10 and 11.

“It’s not just because it’s a big airport like JFK or LAX that we should go and speak up against injustice,” Shabbir said. “Wherever we can, we should reach out, we should reach and we should say that we are standing against all the people in all the airports in the United States.”

Eleven-year-old Alexandra Wald was one of many protesters toting a sign.

“It says, ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.’ It’s written on a plaque at the bottom of the Statue of Liberty. It was made to welcome in refugees at the turn of the century,” she said. “Things can change so much in over a century, but the feeling we have to other people should not change.”

Lul Ahmad said her father came to the United States for medical treatment after he was shot during Somalia’s civil war. After he was treated, he sought for his family to follow him. Ahmad arrived 21 years ago, at age 7.

Though she is a U.S. citizen, her entire extended family remains in Somalia, one of the seven countries named in Trump’s executive order.

“I fear the idea of going there because what if I can’t back in? Or what if they can’t visit us ever?” she said. “How can you separate families like that for so long?”

Esra Daoud described herself as a “Sudanese Muslim American.” She said she arrived in the United States when she was 10 years old, in 1999. Now 27, she works as a contractor doing clinical research for the Department of Defense and has dual citizenship in the United States and Sudan.

Like Ahmad, Daoud’s extended family is all in Sudan, another country named in the immigration ban.

“It’s a hard time for all of us,” Daoud said. “We don’t know exactly what’s going to happen.”

She said she was planning to visit family in Sudan this summer, but expects to cancel that trip as a result of the executive order.

“It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “It’s not American. This isn’t what this country is based on.”

Others at the protest said they were there to show solidarity.

Claire Matsunaga came to the protest from Potomac, Md. armed with bags of California Mandarin Oranges to pass out as snacks to the other protesters.

“Peaches are out of season, and I think peaches should be the fruit of this movement — peaches to impeach Trump,” she said.

U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin was munching on one of Matsunaga’s oranges.

“I came to stand in solidarity with all the people protesting these ridiculous and unconstitutional executive orders,” he said.

Raskin was at Dulles International Airport in Northern Virginia earlier, but he said it didn’t compare to the scene at BWI.

“I was very impressed by the crowd at Dulles, but it was nothing like this,” he said. “This is amazing.”

The protest also featured visits by other members of the congressional delegation, as well as former Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Maureen Sweeney, who runs the immigration law clinic at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law, was one of a group of immigration lawyers ready to help anyone arriving at BWI who encountered legal trouble related to the executive order.

She was told shortly before the protest that there wouldn’t be any nationals from the seven affected countries arriving at BWI on Sunday, she said.

But she said Trump’s order has made her ready to leap into action when the time comes.

“It certainly arouses in me every energy to fight back,” she said. “And I see that in my students as well. They’re really anxious to get out where they can respond to this in some way because this is not what they understand America to be.”

Rachel Baye is a senior reporter and editor in WYPR's newsroom. @RachelBaye
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