More than a dozen travelers detained at O'Hare International Airport under President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration were released late Saturday, ending a chaotic day of protests in Chicago and across the country.
A total of 16 people, including an 18-month-old child, were detained at O'Hare, according to immigration lawyers who gathered at the airport to offer assistance to those impacted by the order.
Signed Friday, Trump's order halts all refugee resettlement into the U.S. for 120 days, imposes an indefinite ban on refugees from Syria, and suspends entry of immigrants from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen – all Muslim-majority nations – for 90 days.
Trump signed the executive action to enact what he called "extreme vetting" to keep "radical Islamic terrorists" out of the country - a call he made repeatedly on the campaign trail.
The order caused confusion and even chaos at several airports, as authorities detained travelers, including those with permanent residency green cards, as family members waited in fear.
That was the case for Nasser Mused, whose father was held at O'Hare. Like many impacted by the order, Mused's father is a green card holder who has lived in Chicago for seven years, and in the United States for 18.
"I can't even call him, I can't do anything," Mused said as he waited in the crowd at International Terminal 5.
"We followed all the process for an immigrant," he added. "So we've done that already. Why make it so difficult now?"
That sentiment was echoed by the lawyers who volunteered their services to impacted travelers.
"We're just doing kind of a triage, like an intake," said attorney Fiona McEntee. "I mean, I feel like we're in a war zone doing this emergency triage with clients, trying to get some information."
"They don't even know what's going to happen," she said.
As the crowd of protesters grew throughout the evening, swelling to more than 1,000 people, detainees were periodically released to resounding cheers.
At least four people were released by 9 p.m., shortly before a federal judge blocked the government from deporting anyone with a valid visa that was being held under the order.
The judge granted the injunction in response to a request filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. The stay applies only to those currently in the U.S., not anyone who tries to enter the country going forward, and while it blocked deportations, it did not require authorities to release the detainees.
Nevertheless, all travelers held at O'Hare were released by 10:30 p.m., including a man seen carrying a small child through the terminal as activists cheered.
Despite the release of those at O'Hare, the Department of Homeland Security issued a statement early Sunday that said the court order would not affect the implementation of the White House order.
"President Trump's Executive Orders remain in place. Prohibited travel will remain prohibited, and the U.S. government retains its right to revoke visas at any time if required for national security or public safety," the statement said.
"Nothing in the Brooklyn judge's order in anyway impedes or prevents the implementation of the president's executive order which remains in full, complete and total effect," added senior adviser to the White House Stephen Miller.