New York City’s first hundred days of President Donald Trump started with protests.
The demonstrators gathered the day after the native New Yorker took office: the city’s Women’s March exploded onto the streets of Manhattan and rivaled the participation of the main march in Washington, itself organized in part by three New Yorkers recently thrust onto the national stage.
Then everyone went home, and the Trump presidency began in earnest.
The travel ban
That first week, a flurry of executive orders included the original “travel ban” temporarily blocking refugees and barring individuals from seven predominantly Muslim countries. That was signed on Friday. By Friday evening, it became clear that at least two refugees were stuck in transit, including Hameed Khalid Darweesh at Kennedy Airport.
Darweesh was an Iraqi interpreter who had worked for the U.S. Army. The effort to get him and others released snapped into place quickly: Before breakfast on Saturday morning volunteer lawyers were en route to Terminal 4. Soon other New Yorkers were, too, when advocacy organizations like Make the Road New York put out calls for protest.
“Five became 50, which became 500, became 5,000,” says Daniel Altschuler, managing director of Make the Road Action.
New Yorkers hopped into cabs or paid that ridiculous extra $5 for the Air Train en route to overwhelming the area near Terminal 4 in the afternoon cold.
By that night, a federal judge in Brooklyn put a hold on the executive order. Trump’s travel ban executive orders would be stymied multiple times by judges around the country.
Making deportations headline news
Days after Darweesh smoked his first American cigarette and went free, another executive order came back into focus — one loosening the protocols on who should be deported and when. This would end up defining much of New York’s 100 days, particularly after a February Immigration and Customs Enforcement action nabbed 41 individuals in the New York area, sparking fears of the kind of aggressive “deportation force” that Trump had threatened on the campaign trail.
Early figures didn’t show any significant difference in the number of deportations than under President Barack Obama. But tell that to a non-citizen living in Jackson Heights who now knows it’s the law of the land that smoking marijuana makes you a priority for deportation. During his first 100 days, Trump did little to dispel this kind of fear. At the same time, he celebrated a drop in illegal border crossings.
But a drop in border crossings does not make for a sufficiently beautiful, huge, terrific 100 days. Repealing and replacing Obamacare would be more terrific. And so in March the president tried to do so, in an effort to achieve one of his main campaign goals.
Yet it was complicated, and a high point of New York’s 100 days might have been the fight to preserve Obamacare. On the road to wrangling votes in the House of Representatives, Speaker Paul Ryan and Trump dangled a New York-specific addendum to get some upstate representatives in the yes column. That backfired when moderates like Rep. Dan Donovan of Staten Island and Brooklyn shied away and the new bill didn’t even get a vote.
New York’s 100 days were marked with plenty of opposition like that directed at Donovan and other health care waverers — from the voters who packed town halls to the protesters who treated Sen. Chuck Schumer’s home in Park Slope like an outdoor Facebook page, gathering to berate the Senate minority leader for not opposing enough Trump appointees and other perceived failures.
The opposition even reached down to City Hall, where politicians were suddenly urged to do radically more to impede ICE actions; and to the dusty halls of the State Senate, where some voters suddenly realized there was a strange collection of elected Democrats, the Independent Democratic Conference, who for some reason hung out with the GOP.
There were debates about how anti-establishment the anti-new-establishment should be, and whether the wave of opposition was a fad or the future: “A lot of the big marches that brought a lot of the people out, there’s this visceral reaction of where have you been the last eight years,” says activist Mike Bento.
But often there wasn’t time for guiding philosophy. So much energy was taken up by “reaction,” says Camille Mackler, the New York Immigration Coalition’s director of legal initiatives who has been organizing lawyers for pro bono immigration work.
There was the feeling time and again of getting “kicked in the gut,” Mackler says, but sometimes the response from New Yorkers would “lift you up.”
Through the bombast and protests and tweets and executive actions and legislative failures and golf trips that marked Trump’s first 100 days (which will be celebrated on Saturday) there was one thing missing — he never returned to NYC.
He isn’t scheduled to do that until next week, so his and New York’s hundred days will have been undertaken entirely separately — but for the fact that New York is reacting and Trump is surely watching.