Local Leaders, Community Members Rally in Support of Refugees

Local leaders, community groups and refugee organizations gathered Monday evening for an interfaith vigil at Thanks-Giving Square in downtown Dallas in protest of the detention of dozens of immigrants at U.S. airports under a travel ban issued by President Donald Trump.

The event, which attracted several hundred people, was organized by a newly formed group called "In Solidarity" – which promotes community service and involvement. Its founder, Eric Ramsey, said he was inspired by what he saw over the weekend and wanted to give people an outlet to continue the conversations those rallies started.

"To tell people they're not welcome in America – that's not what I was raised to believe America stands for," said Ramsey.

He said despite Trump's claims that this action will make our country safer, he believes it will embolden terrorists and their recruiting efforts and create unnecessary fear of refugees.

"My hope with this event was to bring people together to come away from that fear so they can stand up and be a part of something and hopefully make some sort of change," said Ramsey.

Nasreen Obaid came to America as an Iraqi refugee four years ago.

"As refugees, we have a lot of hopes and dreams to live in peace. We have been searching for a long, long time and I found peace in America," she said.

Obaid said she went through a year-and-a-half of background checks and vetting before being allowed into the country. Her family, including her mother, brothers and sister, remain in Iraq. They have been waiting on paperwork to allow them into the U.S. for four years, Obaid added. 

But she said she is hopeful she will see them soon.

"I believe in this country, I believe in Americans, I believe we will be together again," Obaid said, smiling. 

Attorneys volunteering their services to the detainees at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport say about two dozen immigrants have been detained at D/FW since the ban was issued. 

Chris Hamilton, one of the lawyers who organized the so-called war room of volunteers providing pro-bono legal services, says families have been the primary source of information for the volunteer legal team, that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have sparing at best with any information. 

In a Twitter post Monday evening, the group of volunteer lawyers calling themselves DFW Detained said seven detained travelers had been released throughout the day because of the work of the volunteers. However, six were still being held.

Among those released Monday was a family of three, including a 5-year-old child. They were able to leave after a detention of more than nine hours, Hamilton said.

As many as 100 lawyers at a time have donated their time at a "war room" at an airport-area hotel, preparing writs of habeas corpus and other documents to free travelers caught in the ban.

Angela Hunt, a former Dallas City Council member, said she and other lawyers met Saturday morning to help travelers detained at D/FW Airport. She said "it's very, very distressing that this most fundamental of human rights under the Constitution is being denied."

Trump and his supporters continue to defend the executive order, insisting it's not a "Muslim ban" as some have suggested, but a measure that will allow "extreme vetting" of the people coming into the U.S. from areas where terrorists operate.

In a series of tweets he posted Monday morning, the president said, "There is nothing nice about searching for terrorists before they can enter our country. This was a big part of my campaign. Study the world! If the ban were announced with a one week notice, the "bad" would rush into our country during that week. A lot of bad "dudes" out there!"

At The Shops at Legacy in Plano, Trump's immigration order is finding support.

"I think, as American citizens, we don't have a country unless we have a border, so I'm very pro-Donald Trump and what he's doing with our immigration," said Chad Crawford, of Frisco. "My understanding is that the vetting that we are doing is incomplete and insufficient, and we need to have a proper vetting process."

"It's not the end of the world," said Philip Portwood, of Plano. "So three months out of everybody's life, then you're fine, and you come and then I see no issue with it."

The temporary travel ban also has supporters at the Plano Senior Recreation Center.

"Somebody's got to protect the country, and he's in charge now, and I think he did the right thing by protecting the country," said Gilmer Rabe, of Plano.

"People who are up to no good have found it too easy to get into the United States and other countries," said Bill Berry, who lives in Far North Dallas.

"I fully respect and support people coming in who are going to support our country, and I think we just need to know more about the people coming in," said Dana Gant, of Plano.

NBC 5's Kevin Cokely contributed to this report.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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