Dallas County officials and faith leaders on Monday night strongly opposed President Donald Trump’s executive order restricting travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, calling for support for immigrants and refugees in a vigil at Thanks-Giving Square downtown.
“We’re better than this,” said Imam Omar Suleiman, a scholar at the Valley Ranch Islamic Center in Irving. “We will show the president that this will not happen on our watch. It will not happen.”
The order led to 13 travelers being detained at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport over the weekend, prompting large protests Saturday and Sunday in the international terminal. All 13 had been released by late Sunday afternoon.
Late Monday night, Suleiman said in a video on Facebook that he had a “verbal assurance” from authorities that no travelers were being held under the executive order.
Instead, travelers were going through “secondary screening,” which was taking longer, Suleiman said, “but they’re saying they’re letting people out.”
At 9 p.m., when Suleiman posted the video, there were six people in secondary screening. If those people are still being detained Tuesday, then Suleiman said he and others would organize an evening protest.
At the vigil, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins called the order a “direct contradiction of our American values.”
“This makes us less safe,” Jenkins told a crowd of several hundred supporters at the vigil.
Dozens brought signs with messages like, “Immigrants make America great” and “Love the stranger because you were once a stranger.” One sign said, “No ban, No wall, Texas welcomes all y’all.” Another said, “Supporting immigrants now so I don’t have to be one later.”
The vigil included chants of, “This is what Dallas looks like!” and a singalong to John Lennon’s Imagine.
“You make me proud and give me strength,” Jenkins told the crowd, “when I see you stand up for American values.”
Jenkins compared the executive order to when the U.S. turned away Jewish refugees in 1939.
“To turn our back on [refugees] at this critical point in our world history is a sad thing,” Jenkins said.
Suleiman said the order degrades Muslims.
“It is dehumanization that allows for Muslims to be spoken of as terrorists,” Suleiman said. “Every phobia is deeply rooted in our inability to see others as human beings.”
Suleiman compared that sentiment to how Japanese-Americans were “treated as the other” when they were sent to internment camps during World War II.
One speaker prayed specifically for Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Trump adviser Stephen Bannon, asking for them “to know they are loved but that refugees are loved, too.”
Among Tarrant residents affected by Trump’s order is Roslyn Sinha, 30, of Hurst, who holds an Iraqi passport. She has a work permit that allows her to stay in the United States but was on a flight to United Arab Emirates to visit her ill mother when Trump signed the order. Now she may be stuck in Dubai but is hoping circumstances will allow her to return to the U.S. around Feb. 7.
She said Monday that she has been calling federal immigration officials to find out if she will be able to return. She also wants to get in touch with lawmakers.
“We just left messages,” Sinha said. “Everyone is directing to me to the U.S. consulate in Dubai. I reached the consulate and the embassy and both told us that they had no idea how to deal with my situation.”
She added that she’s glad to see her mother.
“I have no regrets of coming here,” she said. “And I’m happy to see her well.”
University of Texas at Arlington President Vistasp M. Karbhari on Monday urged international students and faculty from the seven countries covered by the ban not to travel outside the United States.
Karhari urged UTA students and faculty to reach out to the school’s Office of International Education before traveling.
UTA has students and faculty from more than 100 countries.
“As the fifth most diverse college campus in the nation, we treasure the ethnic and cultural richness that makes UTA unique,” Karbhari wrote in a message posted Monday on the UTA website. “We pride ourselves on the pivotal role we play in the community of Arlington, North Texas, and beyond, through the global impact that our tremendous scholarship, research, and outreach produces.”
University of Texas at Austin President Greg Fenves and Texas A&M University President Michael K. Young also issued statements regarding the ban Monday. Fenves said UT Austin has 110 students and faculty from the affected countries while Young said the ban “has understandably ignited concerns within our university community.”
Former Texas A&M basketball player Joseph Jones and a teammate also from the U.S. were stranded in Dubai after Iran banned U.S. citizens in response to Trump’s executive order, their agent told The Vertical on Yahoo Sports.
Staff writers Bill Hanna, Diane Smith and Tom Uhler contributed to this report.