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Hundreds rally at MSP to protest Trump immigration curbs

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As many as a thousand people gathered in protest.
As many as a thousand people gathered in protest of Donald Trump's executive order banning refugees at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Sunday.
Christopher Juhn for MPR News

Updated Jan. 30, 12:31 p.m. | Posted Jan. 29., 4:30 p.m. 

Some 1,000 people gathered Sunday at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to denounce President Donald Trump's new immigration restrictions.

With shouts of "no hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here," demonstrators joined crowds at airports across the country to criticize an executive order Trump signed Friday that temporarily bars citizens from Somalia and six other largely Muslim countries, as well as all refugees, from entering the United States.

Trump signed the order saying it was necessary for national security. But the move triggered chaos in airports around the U.S. when it took effect on Saturday as people with a legal right to be in the U.S. were suddenly detained.

A federal judge has barred immigration officials from deporting people from those countries, and late Sunday the head of the federal Department of Homeland Security clarified that people from the affected countries who hold green cards would not be kept out of the U.S.

Still, it was a day of frustration and anger over the restrictions that showed no signs of ebbing.

U.S. Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar speak against Trump's order.
U.S. Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar speak against Trump's executive order with Muwatib and Mumtaz Dahir, in jackets. The Somali refugees have a younger sister who may be stranded in Uganda as a result of the order.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

After meeting with a group of immigrants and refugee advocates in St. Paul, Minnesota DFL U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken rebuked the Trump administration for the move.

The curbs are "probably unconstitutional" because they target people by country of origin and religion, said Franken, adding that it may serve as a "recruitment device for ISIS" and other terrorists.

Klobuchar called the president's order irresponsible and unconscionable and said there are better ways to vet people coming into the country.

Minnesota GOP U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen also criticized the order. He released a statement Monday calling it "poorly implemented and conceived" and said it was clear from the weekend chaos that it "does not ensure that legal residents, including green card holders, and non-threats, such as those who served alongside the American military in Iraq, are treated fairly and with the dignity they deserve."

Hundreds pack the Brian Coyle Center Auditorium.
Hundreds pack the Brian Coyle Center Auditorium during a community planning session to address the recent refugee and immigration ban.
Matthew Hintz for MPR News

In the Cedar Riverside neighborhood in Minneapolis, the heart of the region's Somali-American community, hundreds of people packed into the gym of the Brian Coyle Community Center on Sunday. The standing room only crowd was there to hear Ilhan Omar, a newly-elected DFL state representative and the nation's first Somali-American legislator. 

Omar denounced President Trump's move as racist and xenophobic.  

"Here in the United States, everyone is welcome," said Omar. "Here in the United States, we do not and we will not continue to further the politics of division." 

State Rep. Ilhan Omar and other state and city officials speak at a rally.
Rep. Ilhan Omar is joined by (from left) Rep. Peggy Flanagan, Mayor Betsy Hodges, Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, City Council Rep. Abdi Warsame, Commissioner of Human Rights Kevin Lindsey and Rep. Erin Murphy, as she addresses the crowd.
Matthew Hintz for MPR News

Omar has lived in the U.S. for 21 years and is an American citizen. She says she's reconsidering traveling to Turkey for an upcoming speaking engagement. Turkey is not on the list of countries in Trump's order, but Omar fears she'll run into trouble with immigration officials when she returns home. 

Trump's order also caused University of Minnesota medical school professor Jafar Golzarian to worry for his mother.  She lives in Brussels and has dual Belgian-Iranian citizenship, and she was traveling to MSP on Sunday.

"We were extremely worried for my mom, who is 75 years old, needs assistance to go through the airport, and doesn't speak English," said Golzarian.

Golzarian said his mother has a visa allowing her to visit the U.S., but she was detained briefly before immigration officials allowed her through. Golzarian says he's grateful to the volunteer lawyers who were on hand at the airport to help.

Travelers show signs of support for the protesters during a rally.
Travelers show signs of support for the protesters during a rally Sunday.
Christopher Juhn for MPR News

"With all the stress we went through because we didn't know what would happen, their presence was amazing," said Golzarian.

At MSP on Sunday, cars honked in support of protesters while other drivers shouted at those holding signs, telling them to go home.  

For those travelers directly and immediately affected by Trump's executive order, the weekend has been traumatic.

Fateme Farmad was returning from Iran to her Minneapolis home with her 11-month-old son when she was detained and questioned for more than 12 hours at Los Angeles International Airport.

Farmad and her family had traveled to Iran last month to visit relatives and her husband, Masoud Samet, had returned home without incident on Jan. 6. She stayed with other family members to attend a wedding.

When the group arrived Saturday, her brother, a U.S. citizen, was immediately allowed back in. She and her mother and her son were held.

"They are OK, but they are very tired and the situation was unexpected and very horrible," said her husband.

Attorneys who filed legal action demanding Farmad's release accused officials at the airport of attempting to coerce her into signing papers relinquishing her permanent resident status.

A protester is arrested for blocking the roadway.
A protester is arrested for blocking the roadway during a rally Sunday.
Christopher Juhn for MPR News

Farmad, who has lived in the United States for five years, is scheduled to take her oath of citizenship on Feb. 13.

Metropolitan Airports Commission spokesman Patrick Hogan said the protesters had a permit to be outside, but moved into the terminal at about 2:15 p.m. Some airlines shut down ticketing counters near the demonstration because of noise. 

By mid-afternoon, Hogan said the permit had expired and protesters were in an unpermitted area, so the airport was looking at ways to disperse them.

He said two arrests had been made, including one man who sat in the middle of a roadway.

People gather to protest the immigration executive order in Rochester.
People gather to protest the Trump administration's immigration executive order on Peace Plaza in front of the Mayo Clinic's Gonda Building in downtown Rochester on Sunday.
Catharine Richert | MPR News

It was a similar scene, though without arrests, in Rochester, Minn. Hundreds gathered in the the city's Peace Plaza to protest the Trump executive order.

Rochester attracts patients and employees from the around the globe because of the Mayo Clinic. It also attracts some of the best minds in medicine from around the world.

"This ban will hurt science," said Jeremy Webb, a researcher at the Mayo Clinic who'd come to the rally.

He said he was the only natural born citizen in his lab and that three of the unit's top researchers are from Iran.

  "We partner with businesses to bring our technology to reality. So this is going to hurt science and business, let alone the people who have come here for a better life," Webb said. "I don't know what else to say. It's heartbreaking."

Mayo Clinic is exploring ways to ensure that patient and staff needs are met under the new order, CEO Dr. John Noseworthy said in a statement, adding that the clinic's "collective diversity helps make us the best place to work and receive care."

Despite the public protests, one key Minnesota Trump supporter warned that people were overreacting and misinterpreting the executive order.

"Everybody just needs to take a deep breath," Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer told WCCO-TV. "There is no test based on religion or anything else."

Emmer called Trump's move a temporary suspension until the new administration had a chance to review the country's immigrant vetting process.

"This is not about a ban on any religion," he said. "This is about no matter who you are... that you can be safe here in the United States and your own community. Everybody just needs to calm down."