Trump’s executive orders on travel challenged

Donald Trump’s executive order banning travelers from seven Muslim countries has resulted in confusion at airports as people already on the way suddenly found themselves denied entry.

Earlier on Saturday, President Trump’s executive order, signed the day before, sowed chaos in airports, universities, corporations and living rooms in the US and abroad, as people grappled with the ramifications of its sometimes vague language.

Travelers were pulled off plans or detained at checkpoints, universities urged at-risk students not to leave the country or to seek legal advice while tech giants recalled their workers from abroad. Throughout, families took calls from panicked loved ones whose lives were cast into disarray, unable to return to their homes, with everything from cars to pets waiting where they left them.

Protestors have descended on the airports in an attempt to have the detained people released and a few were. Iran has already responded in kind, banning US travelers to that country. But the other six countries targeted (Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia) may be too weak to respond similarly.

A federal judge late yesterday issued a stay of the order.

A federal judge has granted a stay on deportations for people who arrived in the US with valid visas but were detained on entry, following President Donald Trump’s executive order to halt travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.

The stay is only a partial block to the broader executive order, with the judge stopping short of a broader ruling on its constitutionality. Nevertheless, it was an early, significant blow to the new administration.

Less than 24 hours after two Iraqi men were detained at John F Kennedy airport in New York on Saturday morning, Judge Ann Donnelly of the federal district court in Brooklyn ordered an emergency stay, blocking the deportation of any individual currently being held in airports across the United States.

“I think the government hasn’t had a full chance to think about this,” Donnelly told a packed courtroom.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other groups filed the lawsuit earlier on Saturday, challenging the detention of the two Iraqi men, with two more plaintiffs were later added to the suit, who were both valid US green-card holders. But the judge’s ruling extended to all individuals facing similar situations across the United States.

The judge’s order applies only to those who are actually on US soil and at the moment does not apply to those being held in airports in other countries as they tried to board planes, though the judge was interested to learn about them too.

However, it would only impact those who were “on American soil” – ie those who had been mid-flight or had landed while the executive order was being signed by the president, [ACLU president Anthony] Romero said.

He estimated that there were at least 100-200 people currently being held in airports across the country, however he said the number could be higher. Asked by the judge to confirm the number, government lawyers were unable to respond with confidence.

Donnelly ordered the government to provide a list of all people currently being held in violation of the order at US airports or in flights, to protests from the government lawyers.

“I don’t think it’s unduly burdensome to get a list of names,” Donnelly said.

And so the legal challenges to Trump begin. We now have the first major test of how the Trump administration will respond to courts thwarting his edicts. The ACLU had better be ready to deal with the flood of lawsuits that they will need to file to protect basic rights that had been taken for granted. Fortunately, there has been a surge in support for that worthy organization since Trump’s election as many people saw the writing on the wall and responded accordingly.

The Cleveland chapter of CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) has issued a travel advisory following the orders signed yesterday by Trump.

What you need to know right now:

  • Generally, non-citizens, including green card holders (lawful permanent residents), from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen will be restricted from entering the U.S. for at least 90 days. Non-citizens from these countries who are presently in the U.S. should consult with an immigration attorney prior to any international travel.
    • However, if you are a green card holder (lawful permanent resident) outside of the U.S. please reach out to an immigration attorney before you travel back to the U.S.
    • If you do plan to travel back to the US, you should fill out a USCIS G-28 form first that officially appoints an attorney to represent you in immigration situations and have that completed form with you as you board your flight.
  • The refugee program is being halted immediately, for at least 120 days. This will mean that anyone, anywhere in the process, will not move forward. The effort to resettle Syrian refugees in the U.S. is being halted indefinitely.

What you should do to protect yourself:

  • If you are non-citizen, even green card holder (lawful permanent residents), from one of the seven countries named above, and you are ALREADY INSIDE the U.S., plan to DELAY all international travel for at least 90 days.
  • If you are a non-citizen from one of the seven countries named above, and you are OUTSIDE of the U.S., you will face issues at the airport upon attempting to re-enter the US.
  • Please keep looking for updates in the coming days to assess your travel options. If you are facing an emergency at the airport or are returning to the US in the coming days, please have our numbers on hand (Cleveland Office: 216.440.2247 or 216.830.2247; Columbus Office 614.451.3232 or CAIR National: 202.488.8787)
  • Whether you are a citizen or not, do not permit law enforcement to enter your home without a warrant. Even if they have a warrant, you should consult with an attorney before speaking to them. Get copies of business cards of all law enforcement officials.

Banning people from certain countries is one thing. Singling out people based on their religion (as the separate executive order on refugees does) is quite another.

On Friday he signed an executive order on refugees that imposes a selective ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries as well as establishes preferential treatment for refugees seeking asylum who are identified with “minority religions” in their country of origin. In case there was any doubt about the latter provision’s intent, Trump told Christian Broadcast News that it was intended to give priority to “Christians” seeking asylum over “Muslims.”

As several commenters pointed out in response to my post yesterday, a person’s religion is a set of beliefs that one adopts, not something that is permanently part of one’s identity. I don’t know if some countries put a person’s religion on their passport but it seems highly unlikely. Instituting tests of religiosity at the borders opens up a minefield of potential abuse, let alone the fact that religious fanatics are quite willing to violate the tenets of their faiths if they believe it serves a ‘higher’ purpose. So such tests will not keep out those determined to enter for nefarious purposes.

It is appalling that people should be subjected to such constraints purely because of their religion. What Trump’s actions will do, apart from making the US an even greater international pariah, is make Muslims already in the US, especially those from the seven countries listed, nervous about leaving the country for any reason for fear of not being allowed re-entry. They will be, in effect, under an expanded version of house arrest that can be labeled ‘nation arrest’.

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