MORRISVILLE, North Carolina (WTVD) --They came by the dozens to stage an impromptu welcome party inside RDU's Terminal 2 for a Rwandan family of six that will be among the last refugees allowed into the U.S. for at least the next several months.
The party never happened. RDU officials emerged to announce the family missed its connecting flight out of Chicago.
The local well-wishers came armed with welcome signs, flowers and balloons. They were here to send a welcoming message to the refugees and show symbolic resistance against President Donald Trump's immigration order which suspended all refugee admissions into the U.S. for the next 120 days, citing national security concerns.
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The six Rwandans were allowed to enter the country because of an exception granted by the Trump administration permitting 872 refugees into the country who were already in transit to the U.S.
But, late Thursday evening, RDU's vice-president of operations announced to the crowd that the refugees were not on the plane. He did not explain why. The welcome party was abruptly called off.
Thursday's welcome event came four days after a massive anti-Trump immigration protest outside Terminal 2 during the weekend. More than 1,000 protesters showed up, overwhelming airport security personnel. Thursday's gathering was much smaller, just a few dozen people.
"Well, I was also here this weekend protesting. We had a wonderful turnout over 1,000 people. It was really invigorating and heartwarming," said Kris Cueto shortly after hearing the news the Rwandan refugees were not arriving. "So yeah, I'm disappointed today, but the sentiment is the same. We want to send a message to the world that Americans are welcoming to immigrants and refugees. And they'll come and we'll welcome them."
RDU officials were nervously concerned Thursday's event could turn into something similar to what happened during the weekend. The airport said there were plans in place to escort the refugees around the media and the well-wishers in the terminal to avoid the crowd and the attention.
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