The ACLU, along with several groups, filed a lawsuit this morning on behalf of two Iraqi men who were en route to the United States on immigrant visas when President Trump issued an executive order banning many Muslims from entering the country.
One of the men, Hameed Khalid Darweesh, was traveling on an Iraqi special Immigrant Visa and had worked as an electrical engineer and contractor for the U.S. government from 2003–2010. Brandon Friedman, a former Obama administration official who commanded a platoon during the invasion of Iraq, said Mr. Darweesh had worked for him as an interpreter. He said on Twitter yesterday that Mr. Darweesh “spent years keeping U.S. soldiers alive in combat in Iraq.”
The other, Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, had been granted a Follow to Join Visa. His wife and 7-year-old son are lawful permanent residents residing in Houston, Texas, and were eagerly awaiting his arrival. Mr. Alshawi’s son has not seen his father for three years.
“President Trump's war on equality is already taking a terrible human toll. This ban cannot be allowed to continue,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.
Immigration officials at John F. Kenndy Airport said there was no other reason than President Trump’s executive order to detain the men.
|Stephen Yang | Reuters|
Judge blocks US from deporting visa holders detained after Trump's refugee order
A federal judge granted an emergency stay Saturday to bar deportation of people with valid visas who landed in the U.S., following chaos and detentions after President Donald Trump's executive order related to immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.
The American Civil Liberties Union estimates it will affect between 100 and 200 people detained at or in transit to U.S. airports, though they do not have to be released from detention. It did not, however, appear to cover Trump's full order, suspending visas from certain nations for 90 days.
The ACLU and other activist groups filed a class action lawsuit on Saturday, seeking to challenge the president's order, as acrimony widened over the policy and the number of detainees waylaid in transit appeared to swell. Demonstrations sprang up at airports around the country in response to the detentions.
"This ruling preserves the status quo and ensures that people who have been granted permission to be in this country are not illegally removed off U.S. soil," Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, said in a statement.
A senior Homeland Security official said Saturday that the agency is monitoring the litigation and has not seen the stay, but will implement any appropriate orders accordingly. The officer said 109 travelers were denied entry into the U.S., while another 173 were stopped from boarding flights in the first 23 hours of the order.
Late Friday, the Trump administration announced that it would temporarily bar entry to refugees from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen due to terrorism concerns. The order seeks "extreme vetting" procedures for those it did allow to enter the U.S. In signing the order, Trump said he pledged to "keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America."
In a habeus corpus petition filed Saturday in a New York federal court on behalf of two Iraqis detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport, the ACLU called Trump's move "unlawful." They were later released.
The case's two lead plaintiffs were held by authorities and threatened with deportation, the ACLU argued, even though both are authorized to enter the U.S. As a number of immigrants in transit were waylaid by the sudden shift in policy, spontaneous demonstrations erupted at JFK Airport on Saturday afternoon.
The ACLU's briefing called the ban a part of a "widespread pattern applied to many refugees and arriving aliens" in the wake of Trump's executive order. Critics have blasted it as a de facto ban on many Muslims entering the United States, though Trump denied that characterization Saturday.
"It's not a Muslim ban, but we were totally prepared. It's working out very nicely. You see it at the airports, you see it all over," Trump said.
Protests erupt at JFK
In a statement, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman pledged to pull out all the stops to assist anyone detained as a result of Trump's "discriminatory and dangerous executive action." Schneiderman said he had directed his staff to assist refugees at JFK Airport.
"President Trump's executive action against war refugees represents a new low in modern American foreign policy and it is incumbent on us to fight back," Schneiderman added.
Trump's ban, issued barely a week after he took office, is the fulfillment of a campaign vow that briefly roiled his White House bid when he first floated as a candidate.
Yet, put into practice just before a weekend, the moratorium has sown confusion and stoked widespread anger, while leaving a number of immigrant travelers in limbo. The number of detainees at JFK Airport has risen to at least 12, according to a CNN report. Protesters flocked to one of the airport's terminals in a spontaneous protest.
Gulf states have provided financial and logistical assistance to migrants seeking refuge from the Syrian conflict—where nearly 11 million have fled to other countries since 2011, mostly Turkey and Europe—but have not offered sanctuary to the displaced.
Last year, under former President Barack Obama, the U.S. took in about 10,000 Syrian refugees.
According to data from the Migration Policy Center, some 86,000 Syrian immigrants resided in the United States as of 2014, which accounts for 0.2 percent of America's 42.4 million immigrants. However, the majority of those Syrians arrive via family reunification rather than as asylum seekers or refugees, the organization said.
FEDERAL COURT GRANTS STAY IN CHALLENGE TO TRUMP IMMIGRATION BAN
NEW YORK — A federal judge tonight granted the American Civil Liberties Union’s request for a nationwide temporary injunction that will block the deportation of all people stranded in U.S. airports under President Trump’s new Muslim ban. The ACLU and other legal organizations filed a lawsuit on behalf of individuals who were subject to the ban. The lead plaintiffs have been detained by the U.S. government and threatened with deportation even though they have valid visas to enter the United States.
Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project who argued the case, said:
“This ruling preserves the status quo and ensures that people who have been granted permission to be in this country are not illegally removed off U.S. soil.”
ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero, had this reaction to the ruling:
“Clearly the judge understood the possibility for irreparable harm to hundreds of immigrants and lawful visitors to this country. Our courts today worked as they should as bulwarks against government abuse or unconstitutional policies and orders. On week one, Donald Trump suffered his first loss in court.”