TAMPA (FOX 13) - Hundreds of students and employees gathered at the University of South Florida to protest President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration Monday afternoon.
The diverse group stood arm-in-arm in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. bust at the university's MLK plaza as demonstrators shouted their disapproval of the president's travel ban. At one point, a Muslim-American student wearing a hijab led them in singing "This Land" together.
The protests were a direct response to refugees and other travelers being detained at U.S. airports under President Trump's temporary ban on refugees and others from seven Muslim-majority countries.
"There was hope of [my family] coming to the United States to be safe but now that hope has been completely cut off," said Hala Alkattan, a USF student who is an American citizen but has extended family in Syria. "Now they're kind of stuck in this warzone with no electricity, no water, no safety and it just keeps getting worse and worse and worse."
The president and his administration have said the bans, which were signed as an executive order Friday, are in place to protect Americans from foreigners who may have ties to terrorism.
A federal judge in New York dealt a blow to Trump's order, issuing a stay Saturday night that prohibits anyone being detained in airports with a valid visa from being sent back to their home country.
The policy, however, set off protests across the country over the weekend. As the one at USF continued, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer called the nationwide reaction overblown.
"I think this has been blown way out of proportion and exaggerated," Spicer said during a briefing at the White House. "The president's going to be very proactive in protecting this country, we're not going to wait until we get attacked and figure out how it won't happen again, he's going to do everything in his power to stop every threat that we face in this country and every potential threat and that's the key point in this: How do we get ahead of threats?"
President Trump has also said the seven countries impacted were initially identified by an Obama administration policy as countries of concern. The former president, however, has disagreed with the comparison and has praised the protests.