(AP-STORYFUL) - The fallout is growing from President Donald Trump's immigration crackdown.
Trump's Friday ban on asylum-seekers came down even as some refugees were midflight to the U.S.
An Iraqi who was detained overnight at a New York City airport because of Trump's ban on refugees from certain Muslim nations has called America "the land of freedom" after being released from custody.
Hameed Khalid Darweesh worked as an interpreter for the U.S. Army when it invaded Iraq in 2003. Later, he was a contract engineer for the U.S. He was granted permission to relocate to the U.S., but was detained along with another traveler from Iraq after arriving at Kennedy Airport Friday night.
Lawyers petitioned a federal court early Saturday to let them go. Two Democratic U.S. Representatives, Nydia Velazquez and Jerrold Nalder, were at the airport trying to get 11 other detainees released.
After he was freed Saturday, Darweesh told a waiting crowd that "America is the greatest nation, the greatest people in the world."
The other man, Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, was on his way to join his wife who'd worked as a U.S. contractor.
Also, Saturday, other travelers were turned back on arrival at U.S. airports or blocked from boarding flights to America. That reportedly happened to two families in Philadelphia.
Overseas, Iranian's state news agency reported the Islamic Republic will `retaliate' against order limiting immigration from Muslim-majority countries.
Iran's foreign ministry is suggesting the country will limit issuing visas to American tourists.
That’s because Friday, Trump signed an executive order making major changes to America's policies on refugees and immigration, including suspending immigration and visas for people from countries including Iran.
Now, U.S. legal permanent residents and visa-holders from those seven countries who'd left the United States cannot return for 90 days.
That's a period of limbo for an unknown number of non-American citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen, now barred from the country where they were studying or had lived, perhaps for years.
Saturday, the official IRNA news agency carried a statement by the Iranian foreign ministry that said Iran will resort to "counteraction" to Trump's executive order.
The statement says: "Iran, to defend the dignity of the great Iranian nation, will implement the principle of reciprocity until the removal of the insulting restriction against Iranian nationals."
The statement adds: "It will apply corresponding legal, consular and political actions."
A federal law enforcement official who had confirmed the temporary ban said there was an exemption for foreigners whose entry is in the U.S. national interest. It was not immediately clear how that exemption might be applied.
Trump's order exempts diplomats.
Those already in the U.S. with a visa or green card will be allowed to stay, according to the official, who wasn't authorized to publicly discuss the details of how Trump's order was being put in place and spoke only on condition of anonymity.
Customs and Border Protection was notifying airlines about passengers whose visas had been canceled or legal residents scheduled to fly back to the U.S. Airlines were being told to keep them off those flights.
Trump's order barred all refugees from entering the U.S. for four months, and indefinitely halted any from Syria. He said the ban was needed to keep out "radical Islamic terrorists."
The next group of refugees was due to arrive in the U.S. on Monday, but the official said they would not be allowed into the country.
The president's order immediately suspended for four months a program that last year resettled in the U.S. roughly 85,000 people displaced by war, political oppression, hunger and religious prejudice. An immediately 90-day ban was put in place for all immigration to the U.S. from the seven Muslim majority nations.
Trump's order singled out Syrians for the most aggressive ban, ordering that anyone from that country, including those fleeing civil war, are indefinitely blocked from coming to the U.S.
"We want to ensure that we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas," Trump said as he signed the order at the Pentagon. "We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country and love deeply our people."
Trump's ban on asylum-seekers came down even as Iraqis endangered by work for the United States in their home country were midflight to their hoped-for refuge in the United States. As a result, they and countless other refugees, their families and aid workers scrambled Saturday as Muslim travelers were turned back on arrival at U.S. airports or blocked from boarding flights to America.
Organizations including the International Refugees Assistance Project, which helps former Iraqi translators for the U.S. military and other refugees seeking entry to the United States, and other organizations aiding asylum-seekers, rushed translators and lawyers to airports to try to help U.S.-approved asylum-seekers already on their way to the country as Trump's ban came down.
"I've got one arriving at JFK in 10 minutes. We'll see how that goes," Becca Heller, director of that refugee group, said Friday night about one man on his way. He is the Iraqi husband of a woman who had fled to the United States recently to escape threats to her life over her work for U.S. officials in Iraq.
Trump said the halt in the refugee program was necessary to give agencies time to develop a stricter screening system. While the order did not spell out what additional steps he wants the departments of Homeland Security and State to take, the president directed officials to review the refugee application and approval process and find any more measures that could prevent those who pose a threat from using the refugee program.
The U.S. may admit refugees on a case-by-case basis during the freeze, and the government will continue to process requests from people claiming religious persecution, "provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual's country."
In an interview with CBN News, Trump said persecuted Christians would be given priority in applying for refugee status.
As a candidate, Trump called for a temporary ban on all Muslim immigration to the U.S. He later shifted his focus to putting in place "extreme vetting" procedures to screen people coming to the U.S. from countries with terrorism ties.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations said it would challenge the constitutionality of the executive order.
"There is no evidence that refugees -- the most thoroughly vetted of all people entering our nation -- are a threat to national security," Lena F. Masri, the group's national litigation director. "This is an order that is based on bigotry, not reality."
During the past budget year, the U.S. accepted 84,995 refugees, including 12,587 people from Syria. President Barack Obama had set the refugee limit for this budget year at 110,000.
According to Trump's executive order, he plans to cut that to 50,000. Refugee processing was suspended in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks and restarted months later.
The two countries have had no diplomatic relations since 1979 when militants stormed the U.S. embassy.
A look at what Trump ordered:
Trump's order directs the State Department to stop issuing visas to Syrian nationals and halts the processing of Syrian refugees. That will remain in effect until Trump determines that enough security changes have been made to ensure that would-be terrorists can't exploit weaknesses in the current vetting system.
Trump ordered a four-month suspension of America's broader refugee program. The suspension is intended to provide time to review how refugees are vetted before they are allowed to resettle in the United States.
Trump's order also cuts the number of refugees the United States plans to accept this budget year by more than half, to 50,000 people from around the world.
During the last budget year the U.S. accepted 84,995 refugees, including 12,587 people from Syria. President Barack Obama had set the current refugee limit at 110,000.
The temporary halt to refugee admissions does include exceptions for people claiming religious persecution, so long as their religion is a minority faith in their country. That could apply to Christians from Muslim-majority countries.
Trump's order did not spell out specifically what additional steps he wants to see the Homeland Security and State departments add to the country's vetting system for refugees. Instead he directed officials to the review the refugee application and approval process to find any other security measures that can be added to prevent people who pose a threat from using the refugee program.
During the Obama administration, vetting for refugees included in-person interviews overseas, where they provided biographical details about themselves, including their families, friendships, social or political activities, employment, phone numbers, email accounts and more. They also provided biometric information, including fingerprints. Syrians were subject to additional, classified controls that administration officials at the time declined to describe, and processing for that group routinely took years to complete.
Trump's executive order suspends all immigration from countries with terrorism concerns for 90 days. The State Department said the three-month ban in the directive applied to Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen -- all Muslim-majority nations. The order also calls for Homeland Security and State department officials, along with the director of national intelligence, to review what information the government needs to fully vet would-be visitors and come up with a list of countries that don't provide it. The order says the government will give countries 60 days to start providing the information or citizens from those countries will be barred from traveling to the United States.
The temporary ban extends to foreigners with visas and people with green cards. Anyone who was abroad when the executive order was signed is now barred from coming back to the country for at least three months. There is an exemption for people whose entry into the country is deemed in the nation's interest, but it's unclear how that exemption may be applied.
Barring any travel to the U.S. from those seven countries, even temporarily, appears to at least partially fulfill a campaign promise Trump made to ban Muslims from coming to the United States until assurances can be made that visitors are properly vetted.