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Couple Wearing “Abolish ICE” Shirts Refused Entry to the Statue of Liberty

Federal employees at a Statue of Liberty security checkpoint denied entry to a couple who refused to change out of T-shirts emblazoned with the words “Abolish ICE.” The pair arrived hoping that their shirts would “acknowledge the symbolism of visiting the Statue of Liberty”—a sculpture that historically welcomed millions of immigrants into the United States—at a time when the country’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency metes out President Donald Trump’s ever-more hard-line anti-immigration policies. 

But when the couple, Tiffany Huang and Sam Lewin, arrived at New York’s South Ferry on July 14 to begin a tour of the national monument, federal employees at the security checkpoint ordered them to change out of their shirts. “He said it was our ‘choice’ to either change or put on clothes over our T-shirts, or leave,” Huang told Gothamist. “So we said we would rather leave, and another security person walked us back out through security.” 

Huang and Lewin, who are engaged, then contacted the New York branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) about the incident. When NYCLU reached out to the National Park Service, the administration acknowledged that the couple’s expulsion had been an illegal form of discrimination and a violation of their freedom of speech. 

During the attempted visit, the guards invoked the July 4 protest action of immigrant activist Therese Patricia Okoumou as the reason for the pair’s dismissal. Okoumou, a Congolese American woman involved with the activist group Rise and Resist, was arrested for scaling the Statue of Liberty to protest against family separation policies. “I had thought, ‘It’s the Statue of Liberty, it’s the fourth of July and there are children in cages,’” she told The Guardian, referring to the thousands of children who were separated from their parents at the US–Mexico border. 

The couple, who received a refund for their tickets and an invitation to return to the cultural landmark, went back on August 21, clad in the same T-shirts that had gotten them kicked out a month ago.