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Dozens protest Trump's immigration order at Buffalo airport

About 150 people gathered at Buffalo Niagara International Airport Saturday night to protest President Trump's executive order that suspends entry into the U.S. for refugees and citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries, joining other demonstrations at airports across the nation, including one at JFK International Airport in New York City.

Protesters in Buffalo held signs that said: "No Muslim Ban" and "No hate/ No fear/ Immigrants are welcome here."

Jennifer Connor, an educator and and freelance writer from Buffalo, was among those who saw a post on Facebook Saturday evening urging people to come protest at the airport.

"This is a 'refugees welcome' rally," she said.

Zaw Win, a resettled Burmese refugee and activist on the West Side, was also at the protest. "We are all together," he said.

Zaw Win, a resettled refugee from Buffalo, was among the protesters at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport Saturday. (Matt Gryta/Buffalo News)

The protesters chanted: "Build the wall. We'll tear it down." and "No ban. No wall. Sanctuary for all."

Security was present but the protest was peaceful and no arrests were made.

Trump's order, which he signed Friday, drew defiant responses from New York leaders, including Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo who condemned the move.

“I never thought I'd see the day when refugees, who have fled war-torn countries in search of a better life, would be turned away at our doorstep," Cuomo said in a statement Saturday after reports of several people trying to enter into the U.S. at JFK being detained and questioned by immigration authorities. "We are a nation of bridges, not walls, and a great many of us still believe in the words 'give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses...' "

Cuomo said he directed the NY Port Authority, the NYS Department of State and his counsel's office to "jointly explore all legal options to assist anyone detained at New York airports, and ensure that their rights are protected."

He also ordered the Port Authority to reverse its decision to suspend the JFK Airtrain, which connects the New York city subways to the airport amid the protest which drew hundreds throughout the day.

"One of the fundamental rights that is granted to the people of this country is the right to peacefully protest," Cuomo said. "I have ordered the Port Authority to reverse its decision regarding the JFK AirTrain. I have also directed the MTA and the New York State Police to assist with transportation and security needs to ensure the safety of all those participating. The people of New York will have their voices heard."

In the meantime, a Brooklyn federal judge issued a stay on Trump's order.

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman vowed to "do everything in my power to help those who have been victimized by President Trump's discriminatory and dangerous executive action" and said his office would provide legal assistance to detained refugees at JFK.

Satish K. Tripathi, president of the University of Buffalo, said in a statement released Saturday night that the university "is a welcoming campus for students, faculty and visitors from across the globe, and is committed to remaining so."

There are about 100 UB students from countries affected by Trump's order, primarily from Iran, said Tripathi. " The university intends to be in contact with each student to offer support and guidance as the spring semester begins next week at UB. In addition, the university will reach out to visiting scholars and permanent residents from the affected countries," he said.

He also assured students that University Police "does not and shall not routinely inquire about an individual’s immigration status" and won't make inquiries into the immigration status of students, faculty, staff or visitors unless there has been an arrest.

And at a forum sponsored by the Muslim Public Affairs Council of Western New York, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz spoke out against Trump's order. "America is supposed to be a shining beacon of freedom. Now, it's a shining beacon - unless you're from seven countries."

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