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Politics

For 2nd Day, Protesters Near Airport Oppose Refugee Ban

Protests continued Sunday in Charlotte and other parts of the state against President Donald Trump's executive order temporarily banning citizens of seven Muslim countries from entering the U.S. One of Mecklenburg County's two U.S. representatives joined in, while the other says he supports the president.

A group of people gathered at the entrance to Charlotte Douglas Airport after 1 p.m. Sunday. Some had signs saying "No Ban, No Wall" and "Refugees are Welcome Here."  As drivers entered the airport, they chanted:  "No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here.”

Organizers originally planned to protest at the airport terminal. That's what happened Saturday night. Six people were arrested when they refused to leave the baggage claim area, where protests aren't permitted.

Organizers said they worked with airport officials to come up with a place they could protest peacefully. They ended up gathering at the intersection of Wilkinson Boulevard and Josh Birmingham Parkway, the airport entrance road.

Ashley Peterson and Amanda Clark of Charlotte organized the protest through Facebook. Clark said America is a nation of immigrants and it's always been welcoming. But this order changes that.

“You start marginalizing one group, and how long until we start marginalizing another based upon some other thing, whatever situation that might be. You can't allow these things to progress,” Clark said.

During the protest, some passing drivers honked their horns and shouted support. But a few yelled expletives at the protesters or flipped them off.  

Bouchra Idlibi was there in a head scarf with her family, who are from Aleppo, Syria. She's a U.S. citizen, with two degrees from UNC Charlotte. She lives in Charlotte where she's raising her young children, whom she said were “... born and raised here, but they need to hold onto their values and who they are - Muslim-Syrian-Americans and proud of it."

“So, we have to stand up for our rights, speak up and not let these executive orders crush our rights,” she said.

Amir Behdani is a native of Iran, now a U.S. citizen living in Charlotte. He said he and other immigrants have always been targeted for discrimination and abuse. Now, thanks to Trump, it’s getting attention.

“I think Trump is a blessing in disguise. If the other side was in power, all of this would have continued to happen, this injustice. But with Trump and his dramatic actions, it's uniting so many people,” Behdani said.

Elham Rebiei, an immigration lawyer also from Iran, said Trump’s order has affected an Iranian family she knows.

“The father [is] stuck in Iran, even though he was supposed to come back to the U.S. this weekend. But he's afraid that if he comes back he will be deported to Iran. He has a wife and three kids in the U.S. and if he doesn't come back to the U.S. in two days he will lose his job here,” she said.  

The order also could affect her husband, Lebanese native Ossama Tfiely, who was protesting with her. He’s a doctoral student on a student visa, awaiting his green card. Tfiely said Trump’s order won’t help the way the president says it will.

“I mean let's be realistic - those terrorists who come in here are not from those countries only, if any came from those countries; they are from other countries - they could be European, they could be Asian, they could be anybody - they could be American themselves; so I don't see how this ban, even for 90 days, is going to help secure the border for now,” Tfiely said.

Democratic Congresswoman Alma Adams of Charlotte joined the protest, calling Trump's order "mean-spirited."  Mecklenburg County's other congressman, Republican Robert Pittenger, says he supports President Trump:

“I think the president is warranted. It is on his watch for the security of this country. And as a result of what's happened the last eight years of president Obama's very open border policy and lack of thorough evaluation of these individuals, these refugees that we're having to go back and take a look and see what's prudent, what we need to do today.”

Charlotte's wasn't the only demonstration Sunday. More than a thousand people protested at Raleigh-Durham Airport. And there was an afternoon protest in downtown Asheville.