Hours after President Trump issued the executive order that effectively closed the U.S. borders to refugees, there are reports coming in of refugees being stopped and detained at airports across the country. According to the New York Times, many of the refugees were still in the air on their way to the U.S. when President Trump signed the executive order. Following their arrival at the designated airports, hours after the immigration ban was in place; they were denied entry into the United States. Most of the detained refugees are from war-torn countries in the Middle-East — including Iraq and Syria — both of which have vast swathes of land under the control of the Islamic State — or ISIS.
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The executive order issued by President Trump has resulted in a complete ban on the admission of Muslim refugees from Syria for an indefinite period. Immigrants from seven other predominantly Muslim countries including Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen also find themselves on the list of barred immigrants. President Trump was, however, careful to add that Christian refugees from these countries would still be allowed into the U.S.
At this point, there is no clarity on the number of refugees who find themselves stuck in airports across the country. Meanwhile, the detentions of these refugees are already fueling a legal challenge after a group of lawyers representing two Iraqi refugees currently held at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport filed a writ of habeas corpus seeking to have their clients released. Additionally, the lawyers also filed a motion for class certification, which would mean that the petition will represent all refugees and immigrants who find themselves stuck in several airports in the U.S. following Trump’s executive order. The writ claims that the immigrants were “unlawfully detained” at ports of entry. According to reports, the executive order has resulted in a legal limbo for people who were to arrive in the U.S. one day after the announcement of the executive order. Several families were in a state of panic for fear of not being able to meet their loved ones.
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Following the news of these detentions, several groups have come forward to complain against the move. These include groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, the International Refugee Assistance Project at the Urban Justice Center, the National Immigration Law Center, Yale Law School’s Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization, and the firm Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton.
Meanwhile, some of the Iraqis who found themselves detained at JFK airport included people who had worked for the U.S. Government for over a decade. One of the detainees included a man identified as Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, who was to meet his wife and son in the U.S. His family had already moved to the U.S. where she worked for a U.S. contractor. These two men were detained Friday night after arriving on two separate flights and were initially not allowed to meet their lawyers leading to some tense moments. According to Mark Doss, supervising attorney at the International Refugee Assistance Project, the attitude of the officers at the airport was outright rude.
“Who is the person we need to talk to?” asked one of the lawyers – to which a Customs and Border Protection agent replied, “Mr. President. Call Mr. Trump.”
Mark Doss further added that these are legitimate, vetted people that are being detained and denied entry.
“We’ve never had an issue once one of our clients was at a port of entry in the United States. To see people being detained indefinitely in the country that’s supposed to welcome them is a total shock. These are people with valid visas and legitimate refugee claims who have already been determined by the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to be admissible and to be allowed to enter the U.S. and now are being unlawfully detained.”
It remains to be seen if government officials will officially grant some reprieve to those immigrants who were already on their way to the U.S. before the immigration ban was announced.
[Featured Image By Elaine Thompson/AP Images]