Travel ban sows chaos at airports

Hundreds turn out to protest president’s action

Franklyn Saumell protests against President Trump’s refugee ban at Miami International Airport on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017.

Photo by Associated Press.

Franklyn Saumell protests against President Trump’s refugee ban at Miami International Airport on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017.

NEW YORK — President Donald Trump’s immigration order sowed more chaos and outrage across the country Sunday, with travelers detained at airports, panicked families searching for relatives and protesters registering opposition to the sweeping measure that was blocked by several federal courts.

Attorneys struggled to determine how many people had been affected so far by the rules, which Trump said Saturday were “working out very nicely.”

But critics described widespread confusion, with an untold number of travelers being held in legal limbo because of ill-defined procedures. Lawyers manned tables at New York’s Kennedy Airport to offer help to families whose loved ones had been detained, and some 150 Chicago-area lawyers showed up at O’Hare Airport after getting an email asking for legal assistance on behalf of travelers.

“We just simply don’t know how many people there are and where they are,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.

Advocates for travelers say the chaos is likely to continue. The executive director of National Immigration Law Center, Marielena Hincapie, said “this is just the beginning.”

“We’re really in a crisis mode, a constitutional crisis mode in our country, and we’re going to need everyone,” she said. “This is definitely one of those all-hands-on-deck moments.”

Meanwhile, protests continued across the country Sunday. Demonstrations first erupted Saturday, a day after Trump signed the order banning travel to the U.S. by citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen. The president also suspended the U.S. refugee program for four months.

In Washington D.C., hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the White House, some holding signs that read, “We are all immigrants in America.” More than 100 protesters also gathered at the international terminal at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, cheering people arriving from Muslim countries.

At the main Dallas-Fort Worth airport, some 200 people held signs and chanted, “Let them go!” They awaited word on nine people detained at the airport, most of them Iranian, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Demonstrations also unfolded at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport and Detroit Metropolitan Airport and in suburban Chicago, where a Jewish group organized a protest to support Muslims.

Lawyers in Chicago crowded into a food court Saturday at O’Hare, some walking around with signs offering legal help. One volunteer attorney, Julia Schlozman, jumped on a subway train and headed to O’Hare even though she is a criminal attorney, not an immigration lawyer.

“I just felt like I had to do something,” she told the Chicago Tribune.

A federal judge in New York issued an order Saturday temporarily blocking the government from deporting people with valid visas who arrived after Trump’s travel ban took effect. But confusion remained about who could stay and who will be kept out of the country. Federal courts in Virginia, Massachusetts and Washington state took similar action.

A more decisive ruling on the legality of the Trump action by U.S. District Judge Ann M. Donnelly will probably take at least several weeks. Opponents and government attorneys will get a chance to lay out their arguments in filings and possibly in oral arguments in court, Gelernt said. Activists said their goal was to have Trump’s order overturned entirely.

Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich, known for usually tempering his public comments, did not hold back in a statement Sunday about Trump’s measures: “Their design and implementation have been rushed, chaotic, cruel and oblivious to the realities” of security. They had, he added, ushered in “a dark moment in U.S. history.”

University presidents criticized the ban and cautioned students and professors from the seven listed countries to beware of traveling outside the U.S. for now The president of the University of Notre Dame, Father John I. Jenkins, was among the sharp critics of the ban.

“If it stands, it will over time diminish the scope and strength of the educational and research efforts of American universities,” he said Sunday in a statement. And he added: “We respectfully urge the president to rescind this order.”

There was no sign the Trump administration might heed such calls. The Department Of Homeland Security said in a statement issued Sunday that “prohibited travel will remain prohibited.”

An official with the Department of Homeland Security who briefed reporters by phone on Saturday said 109 people who were in transit on airplanes had been denied entry and 173 had not been allowed to get on their planes overseas.

No green-card holders were turned away from entering the U.S. as of Saturday, the official said, though several spent hours in detention before being allowed in.

Hameed Khalid Darweesh, a translator and assistant for the U.S. military in Iraq for 10 years now fleeing death threats, was among at least a dozen people detained at Kennedy Airport. He walked free after his lawyers, two members of Congress and as many as 2,000 demonstrators went to the airport to seek his release.

After an appeal from civil liberties lawyers, Judge Donnelly issued an emergency order Saturday barring the U.S. from summarily deporting people who arrived with valid visas or an approved refugee application, saying it would likely violate their legal rights.

Before Trump signed the order, more than 67,000 refugees had been approved by the federal government to enter the U.S., said Jen Smyers, refugee policy director for Church World Service. More than 6,400 had already been booked on flights, including 15 families that had been expected over the next few weeks in the Chicago area from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Iran, Syria and Uganda.

The bulk of refugees entering the U.S. are settled by religious groups. All that work ground to a halt after Trump signed the order.