LOWER MANHATTAN —Americans suffering from the President Donald Trump's travel ban aimed at more than a half dozen countries, most of them majority Muslim, protested the law, which was recently upheld by the Supreme Court, at a Wednesday rally of immigrants.
The rally at Foley Square, in the Federal District downtown, had many of the hallmarks of any other patriotic rally. There were chants of "U.S.A.!, U.S.A.!, U.S.A.!," and dozens of American flags on display, of various sizes. There were also prayers. At Wednesday's protest, however, those prayers were carried out en masse, facing Mecca -- a different sight than is seen at many pro-America rallies, but undeniably patriotic nonetheless.
"Donald Trump, we're as American as you," Abdul Salam Mubarez said in front of the crowd of several hundred.
Mubarez has spent most of his life in New York,and opened a bodega near Times Square 22 years ago.
Like a very large percentage of deli owners in the five boroughs, Mubarez is of Yemeni descent. Many of them, including Mubarez, shut down their businesses on Feb. 2 as a protest against Trump's executive order, which currently bans travel to the U.S. from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. It also bans some travel from some groups in Venezuela.
For now, the Supreme Court has upheld the ban. It also encouraged two federal circuit courts to issue new rulings on it from which the high court can rule permanently on the issue. Late last week, one of the courts, the Ninth Circuit in Seattle, issued an injunction calling for the ban to be lifted because it restricts entry to people "with a bona fide relationship to a person or entity within the United States.”
Another lower federal court, The Fourth Circuit, based in Richmond, Virginia, is expected to rule some time in the new year.
In the meantime, the ban's effect on some families was evident at the rally on Wednesday.
"I'm an American citizen," Salim Shalwish said at the demonstration. "I've been an American citizen since 2005."
Shalwish and his wife live in Canarsie, Brooklyn. Exactly one year ago, they'd gotten good news from the State Department about their teenage children trying to join them here.
"We got the congratulation letter saying the [U.S.] visa would be issued in two days," Shalwish said.
That promised visa never came for his 13 year-old son and 16-year-old daughter.
"They're always crying," Shalwish said. "My wife's always crying."
The Trump Administration, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, have stated that people from the banned countries must be restricted until additional entrance screening measures can be implemented.
In his ruling, Ninth Circuit Appeals Court Judge James Robart wrote that current security screening measures include "the most thorough vetting of any travelers to the United States.”
U.S. Dept. of Justice spokesperson Lauren Ehrsam said they disagree with the court's ruling. They are evaluating next steps.
Meanwhile, emotions still run high among people directly affected by the ban.
"We believe in the justice of America," said Queens resident Reem Al Harazi.
Her father, an architect, was issued a certificate of appreciation by the Department of Justice for his work designing and rebuilding a town for the U.S. government in Iraq after the Iraq War.
She and her four siblings, who are all U.S. citizens of Yemeni descent, have been trying to get their father admitted to the U.S., but haven't had any success yet.
Meanwhile, their birth country remains mired in a civil war, and, according to the U.S. military, harbors Al Qaeda operatives.
Al Harazi, who'll finish graduate school next semester, said that shouldn't matter for her family, which has only shown devotion to the U.S.
"We didn't take anything from anyone," she told PIX11 News. "So why should we suffer for what other people are doing?"