LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Protesters left Los Angeles International Airport early today after a day in which thousands rallied against President Donald Trump's immigration crackdown, confronting counter-protesters and snarling traffic.
“Demonstrators have dispersed at LAX,'' Los Angeles World Airports spokeswoman Nancy Castles said in a 12:30 a.m. update. “Upper and lower level roadways in the Central Terminal Area are fully open and traffic is flowing normally.''
Two people were arrested during the Sunday protests for blocking the roadway, she said. A total of 15 flights were reported delayed because flight crews and passengers had trouble reaching their terminals, including six international flights and nine domestic flights.
Airport police worked to keep protesters and counter-protesters apart as “they scream at each other,'' Los Angeles Airport police spokesman Tom Pedregon said. Airport officials and protesters finally agreed that protesters could block the crosswalk at the international terminal for about 15 minutes every half hour and that the arrival and departure levels would not be blocked at the same time, according to Castles.
Faced with chaotic confusion in customs checkpoints and protest at airports, The White House apparently backed off its initial hardline stance -- the crackdown apparently at first included Green Card holders permitted to live and work in the United States -- but the status of travelers from Muslim countries remained unclear.
“LPR's (Legal Permanent Residents with Green Cards) are generally being released. Some held for more than five hours,'' said immigration attorney Nicholas Mireles. He did not know the extent to which visa holders were released.
The lower level roadway was closed starting at 2 p.m. Sunday outside the Tom Bradley International Terminal, which sits between Terminal 3 and Terminal 4, Pedregon said. The number 4 lane and the outer curb area of the lower level roadway was reopened by 3 p.m., but airport police urged travelers to arrive early and plan on delays.
“The upper deck lanes suffered intermittent closures and re-openings all day because of people moving in and out of the street,'' Pedregon told City News Service. “It's been a dynamic traffic situation.''
At the heart of the matter was Trump's Executive Order banning indefinitely all refugees from Syria entering the U.S. The order blocked all refugee admissions for 120 days, and also stopped all refugee and non-refugee entries from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Syria for 90 days.
It did not apply to people from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Lebanon -- countries where Trump is reported to have business interests but which federal officials describe as prominent U.S. allies.
A federal judge on the East Coast issued a temporary nationwide order blocking the immigration actions. Two lawsuits seeking emergency stays were also filed in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer tried to meet with people who were detained by federal agents as they arrived with valid visas or work permits. However, he was rebuffed by federal agents.
“There are residents of this city who have friends and relatives who have the right to return,'' Feuer told CNS. “And the detainees are in many cases residents of the City of Los Angeles, and have loved ones here in this city, waiting for reunification.''
The protests at LAX actually began on Saturday. At least 300 people rallied against the executive order at LAX Saturday afternoon, Maria Elena Jauregui of the Service Employees International Union said. The protests began as word spread about dozens of people being detained or turned away as friends and relatives came to meet them.
State Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued a statement pledging to find every avenue possible to defend residents and refugees barred from re- entry into the United States.
“Justice doesn't live or die on the stroke of one man's pen regardless of how high his office,'' Becerra said, calling rump's executive order unjust and anti-American. “It discriminates against human beings based on their faith. It denies entry to those with proven and legitimate fears of death and prosecution. It tramples on centuries of American tradition.''
“Los Angeles will always be a place of refuge, where the most vulnerable people fleeing war, or religious or political oppression, can find a safe and welcoming home,'' added Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “Congress outlawed the banning of immigrants by nationality more than 50 years ago because we have long known it does not make us safer.''