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More than 300 protest Trump’s immigration ban at Pittsburgh International Airport | TribLIVE.com
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More than 300 protest Trump’s immigration ban at Pittsburgh International Airport

Tribune-Review
| Sunday, January 29, 2017 5:21 p.m.
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Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Volunteers pass out pizza to fellow protestors during a protest inside of Pittsburgh International Airport in response to President Donald Trump's travel ban on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017.
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Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Protesters march inside of Pittsburgh International Airport in response to President Donald Trump's travel ban on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017.
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Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Protesters march inside of Pittsburgh International Airport in response to President Donald Trump's travel ban on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017.
ptrProtest01013017
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Student organizer, John Kennewick, 22, of Oakland, leads chants while protesters march inside of Pittsburgh International Airport in response to President Donald Trump's travel ban on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017.

More than 300 people marched around Pittsburgh International Airport’s baggage-claim area Sunday afternoon to protest President Donald Trump’s travel ban.

“The America we believe in is one that welcomes everyone – it doesn’t turn away anyone because of fear … This ban is fundamentally antithetical to American values,” said marcher Lauren Mabe, 28, of Indiana, Pa.

Mabe’s friend Chyna Haley, 20, also of Indiana, said she found the ban troubling because it appeared to be “especially directed toward people of the Muslim faith.”

“This is a country built on religious freedom,” Haley said.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto joined the protesters and announced he would not use Pittsburgh police to enforce Trump’s immigration plan.

Pittsburgh International Airport spokesman Bob Kerlik said the airport had not detained any travelers since the ban was imposed and does not have any direct nonstop flights to or from the affected nations.

The Squirrel Hill-based Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Pittsburgh is scrambling to identify what the new rules mean for more than 50 refugees scheduled to resettle in the Pittsburgh region during Trump’s 120-day refugee ban, said Leslie Aizenman, the agency’s director of refugee and immigrant services.

The limbo further threatens to jilt hundreds of more refugees at varying stages in the 12-step vetting process, which includes medical and security clearances and in-person interviews. A typical refugee waits 18 months to three years to resettle in Pennsylvania, longer if they are coming as families.

“All their paperwork overseas, which is massive in terms of the vetting they need to go through, has parts that expire after a certain point,” Aizenman said, “and whenever anything expires the whole process starts over again.”

Trump’s order placed an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees. Since Oct. 1, more than half of the Squirrel Hill agency’s refugee cases – 80 refugees – have come from Syria, Aizenman said.

Rachael Wonderlin, 28, of Mt. Washington, founder of the Facebook group Pittsburgh PA #Resist, said she began organizing the airport protest last night.

“We can be scared and angry, but if we sit around and do nothing, what good is it? We’re not going to sit around and just let (Trump) pass all these executive orders without making our voices heard,” Wonderlin said.

The protesters marched in a circle in the main walkway of the baggage-claim area for about three hours. Aside from more general anti-Trump and pro-immigration chants, marchers offered some more localized messages such as, “From Braddock to Carrick, all the way Downtown, Pittsburgh is an immigrant town.”

Tribune-Review writer Natasha Lindstrom & Trib news partner WXPI contributed.

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