Friends Wait for Detained Iranian Student at JFK: ‘She Is Very Strong’

ABC News(NEW YORK) — The atmosphere at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York remained fraught on Sunday, as those affected by President Donald Trump's executive order limiting immigration sought clarity on the controversial move.

Mehdi Namazi, a Ph.D. student at Stony Brook University, told ABC station WABC in New York that his friend Vahideh Rasekhi, an Iranian doctoral student and colleague, was one of those affected by the order. She arrived in the U.S. at just after 1 a.m., Namazi said.

Namazi said that his friend's exact whereabouts were unknown at the time amid confusion over the order. "Talking to her is awkward because they won't [let] them talk to anyone. She could only text a few times," he told WABC.

"Her situation was very stressful," he said. "They put her [on] a plane... Her phone had to be off while she was detained."

Namazi added: "It's shocking for her right now, she is very strong."

Several colleges have advised foreign students and scholars who might be affected by the order to defer travel outside of the U.S. at least until there is more clarity on how the order may affect them.

A senior Department of Homeland Security official said late Saturday night that 375 travelers had been impacted by the executive order, which calls for an immediate suspension of immigration from countries with ties to terror, including Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Iran and Libya, for a period of 90 days.

Of those 375 travelers, 109 were in transit to the U.S. and denied entry, 173 were denied entry to the U.S. prior to boarding their flights at a foreign port and 81 were granted waivers because of their legal permanent resident or special immigrant visa status.

Protests that erupted at JFK Saturday afternoon over the detention of some travelers ultimately spread throughout the country, causing chaos at major airports across the country that continued Sunday.

"People are of course crying," Namazi said of the atmosphere at JFK Sunday. "There is a girl here and her parents are detained. They are seniors and they are sick and they [can't] speak English. They can't [have] lawyers."

Stephen Rooke, a volunteer attorney who rushed to the airport in response to the confusion, told WABC that he had stayed there overnight together with other attorneys to help those in need.

"Many of the attorneys here are used to working in a firm and having a lot more time," Rooke told WABC. "This is a true emergency response effort and I am overwhelmed with the quality of the legal support we have here and all the volunteers stepping in overnight to file emergency orders.

"Hopefully we can get to a point where individuals still detained will be released," he added.

Namazi called volunteer attorneys like Rooke "angels from heaven" because of the work they've put in trying to assist those detained.

Six people were still being detained at JFK as of Sunday morning.

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