A federal judge blocked part of President Trump’s executive order on immigration on Saturday evening, ordering that refugees and others trapped at airports across the United States should not be sent back to their home countries. But the judge stopped short of letting them into the country or issuing a broader ruling on the constitutionality...
WASHINGTON — A federal judge blocked part of President Trump’s executive order on immigration on Saturday evening, ordering that refugees and others trapped at airports across the United States should not be sent back to their home countries. But the judge stopped short of letting them into the country or issuing a broader ruling on the constitutionality of Mr. Trump’s actions.
Lawyers who sued the government to block the White House order said the decision, which came after an emergency hearing in a New York City courtroom, could affect an estimated 100 to 200 people who were detained upon arrival at American airports in the wake of the order that Mr. Trump signed on Friday afternoon, a week into his presidency.
Judge Ann M. Donnelly of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, who was nominated by former President Barack Obama, ruled just before 9 p.m. that implementing Mr. Trump’s order by sending the travelers home could cause them “irreparable harm.”
Dozens of people waited outside of the courthouse chanting, “Set them free!” as lawyers made their case. When the crowd learned that Judge Donnelly had ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, a rousing cheer went up in the crowd.
While none of the detainees will be sent back immediately, lawyers for the plaintiffs in the case expressed concern that all those at the airports would now be put in detention, pending a resolution of the case. Inviting the lawyers to return to court if the travelers were detained, Judge Donnelly said, “If someone is not being released, I guess I’ll just hear from you.”
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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration quickly reverberated through the United States and across the globe Saturday, slamming the border shut for an Iranian scientist headed to a lab in Boston, an Iraqi who had worked as an interpreter for the U.S. Army, and a Syrian refugee family headed to a new life in Ohio, among countless others.
Around the nation, security officers at major international gateways had new rules to follow. Humanitarian organizations scrambled to cancel long-planned programs, delivering the bad news to families who were about to travel. Refugees who were airborne on flights when the order was signed were detained at airports.
At least one case quickly prompted a legal challenge as lawyers representing two Iraqi refugees held at Kennedy International Airport in New York filed a motion early Saturday seeking to have their clients released. They also filed a motion for class certification, in an effort to represent all refugees and other immigrants who they said were being unlawfully detained at ports of entry.
Trump’s order, enacted with the stroke of a pen Friday afternoon, suspended entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, barred Syrian refugees indefinitely, and blocked entry into the United States for 90 days for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Shortly after noon Saturday, Hameed Khalid Darweesh, the interpreter who worked on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq, was released. After nearly 19 hours of detention, Darweesh began to cry as he spoke to reporters, putting his hands behind his back and miming handcuffs.
“What I do for this country? They put the cuffs on,” Darweesh said. “You know how many soldiers I touch by this hand?”
The other man the lawyers are representing, Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, remained in custody as his legal advocates sought his release.
Inside the airport, one of the lawyers, Mark Doss, a supervising attorney at the International Refugee Assistance Project, asked a border agent, “Who is the person we need to talk to?”
“Call Mr. Trump,” said the agent, who declined to identify himself.
The White House said the restrictions would protect “the United States from foreign nationals entering from countries compromised by terrorism” and ensure “a more rigorous vetting process.” But critics condemned Trump over the immediate collateral damage imposed on people who, by all accounts, had no sinister intentions in trying to come to the United States.
An official message to all U.S. diplomatic posts around the world provided instructions about how to treat people from the countries affected: “Effective immediately, halt interviewing and cease issuance and printing” of visas to the United States.
Confusion turned to panic at airports around the world, as travelers found themselves unable to board flights bound for the United States. In Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Istanbul, airport and immigration officials turned passengers away at boarding gates and, in at least one case, ejected a family from a flight they had boarded.
Seyed Soheil Saeedi Saravi, a leading young scientist in Iran, had been scheduled to travel in the coming days to Boston, where he had been awarded a fellowship to study cardiovascular medicine at Harvard, according to Thomas Michel, the professor who was to supervise the research fellowship.
But Michel said the visas for the student and his wife had been indefinitely suspended.
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“This outstanding young scientist has enormous potential to make contributions that will improve our understanding of heart disease, and he has already been thoroughly vetted,” Michel wrote to The New York Times. “This country and this city have a long history of providing research training to the best young scientists in the world, many of whom have stayed in the USA and made tremendous contributions in biomedicine and other disciplines.”
A spokesman for the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities — the association of large public colleges — said the group was aware of an Iranian undergraduate student who had been barred from boarding a flight.
A Syrian family of six who have been living in a Turkish refugee camp since fleeing their home in 2014 had been scheduled to arrive Tuesday in Cleveland, according to a report in The Cleveland Plain Dealer. Instead, the family’s trip has been called off.
Danielle Drake, a community relations manager at US Together, a refugee resettlement agency, told the newspaper that Trump’s ban reminded her of when the United States turned away Jewish refugees during World War II. “All those times that people said, ‘Never again,’ well, we’re doing it again,” she said.
It was unclear how many refugees and other immigrants were being held nationwide in relation to the executive order.
Seattle-area immigration activists said early Saturday they weren’t yet aware of anyone being held at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport or other Washington state entry points.
An airport spokesman referred questions about possible detentions at Sea-Tac to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials. A local CBP spokesman referred questions to CBP’s national media director, who did not respond with any details.
Lawyers said that one of the Iraqis detained at Kennedy Airport, Hameed Khalid Darweesh, had worked on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq for 10 years.
The other man they are representing, Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, was coming to the United States to join his wife, who had worked for a U.S. contractor, and his young son, the lawyers said. They said both men had been detained at the airport Friday night after arriving on separate flights.
The lawyers said they had not been allowed to meet with their clients. “Who is the person we need to talk to?” one of the lawyers, Mark Doss, a supervising attorney at the International Refugee Assistance Project, asked a border agent. “Call Mr. Trump,” said the agent, who declined to identify himself.
According to the filing, Darweesh was granted a special immigrant visa on Jan. 20, the same day Trump was sworn in as president. Darweesh worked with the Americans in Iraq in a variety of jobs — as an interpreter, an engineer and a contractor.
He worked as an interpreter for the Army’s 101st Airborne Division in Baghdad and Mosul starting shortly after the invasion of Iraq on April 1, 2003. The filing said he had been directly targeted twice for his work with the U.S. military.
A husband and father of three, he arrived at Kennedy Airport with his family. Darweesh’s wife and children made it through passport control and customs, but agents of Customs and Border Protection detained him.
Alshawi was supposed to be reunited with his wife, who has been living in Texas. She wiped away tears as she waited in her sister’s house early Saturday in a Houston suburb.
In Cairo on Saturday, five Iraqis and one Yemeni, all of whom had valid immigration visas, according to airport officials, were barred from boarding an EgyptAir flight headed to New York, The Associated Press reported.
It was not clear if any of the six passengers had been granted refugee status.
In Istanbul, during a stopover Saturday, passengers reported that security officers had entered a plane after everyone had boarded and ordered a young Iranian woman and her family to leave the aircraft.
Iranian green card holders who live in the United States were blindsided by the decree while on vacation in Iran, finding themselves in a legal limbo and unsure whether they would be able to return to the United States.
“How do I get back home now?” said Daria Zeynalia, a green card holder who was visiting family in Iran. He had rented a house and leased a car, and would be eligible for citizenship in November. “What about my job? If I can’t go back soon, I’ll lose everything.”
Shadi Heidarifar, a philosophy student recently admitted to New York University, said in a message on Twitter that she had spent three years applying to universities in the United States.
“I had to work to save money, gather documents. The application fees were so expensive that a whole family could live for a month” on them, Heidarifar wrote. When she was accepted recently, she was elated. “But now my entire future is destroyed in one second.”
Seattle Times staff reporter Bob Young contributed to this report.