Judge blocks deportations as Trump order sparks global outrage – Politico
NEW YORK—A judge has blocked the federal government from deporting citizens of seven countries who were detained at U.S. airports over the past day or so as a result of an executive order President Donald Trump issued Friday.
Advocates said 100-200 travelers from those Muslim-majority countries were being held at various airports around the U.S. as a result of Trump’s order, which was billed as an anti-terrorism measure. The detentions sparked protests outside many international airports, including John F. Kennedy Airport in New York and Dulles Airport outside Washington.
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U.S. District Court Judge Ann Donnelly issued her injunction over the government’s objection during an emergency hearing Saturday night as several hundred people opposed to Trump’s order chanted and milled about outside the Brooklyn, N.Y., federal courthouse.
During the brief court session, the judge said it was difficult to see the harm in allowing the newly arrived immigrants to stay since they were being routinely admitted just a couple of days ago.
“If they had come in two days ago, we wouldn’t be here, am I right? … These are all people who have been through a vetting process,” the judge said.
“Explain to me how these petitioners won’t suffer irreparable damage if I don’t grant this stay?” Donnelly asked.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Riley complained that the court proceeding was unduly rushed. “This has unfolded with such speed, we haven’t had an opportunity to address any of the important legal issues,” Riley said.
However, American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Lee Gelernt said the immigrants affected were essentially the victims of bad timing that caused them to be caught in limbo just as Trump’s order was being issued.
“These people were caught in transit,” Gelernt said. “The government is putting someone back on a plane to Syria now.”
Donnelly, an appointee of President Barack Obama, said she was freezing the status quo by blocking the deportations.
“The whole point of this hearing is to preserve the status quo. I don’t think it’s unduly burdensome to identify people we are talking about here,” the judge declared. “Nobody is to be removed in this class.”
The White House had no immediate comment on the legal setback for one of the new president’s signature policy moves. Justice Department spokespeople did not immediately indicate whether an appeal was planned.
Donnelly’s order does not appear to interfere with most of Trump’s directive, since the judge only moved to protect a limited number of individuals who were already on or were about to board flights to the U.S. when Trump signed his measure. Now, such travelers will likely be blocked from boarding flights in the first place.
Two other judges also stepped into the legal fray over the implementation of Trump’s executive order Saturday night. A federal judge in Alexandria, Va., issued an order barring the deportation of all green card holders being detained at Dulles Airport for 7 days. Judge Leonie Brinkema’s order also required that Customs and Border Protection grant lawyers access to those individuals.
“Department of Homeland Security officials are refusing to allow lawyers to talk with the detained people, who are legal permanent residents, even though the judge’s order requires the government to permit lawyer access,” one of the attorneys involved, Andrew Pincus, said later Saturday night.
In addition, a federal judge in Seattle blocked the deportation of two immigrants from the airport there until a hearing set for Friday.
The legal battle is now expected to move to a series of individual cases filed in New York, Chicago and elsewhere Saturday, where immigrants will be seeking to be released from detention to travel or settle in the U.S.
Donnelly acted on a petition filed early Saturday, seeking to release Hameed Khalid Darweesh and Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi from detention at JFK Airport. The case was filed by the ACLU, the International Refugee Assistance Project the National Immigration Law Center and a Yale Law School legal clinic.
Darweesh was released early Saturday afternoon, according to aides to New York Democratic Reps. Jerry Nadler and Nydia Velazquez, who went to JFK to try and free the men. Alshawi was released Saturday night, said a Nadler spokesman who indicated earlier that at least 10 others had been detained at the airport.
“We are pleased to announce that Hameed Khalid Darweesh has been released and can now be reunited with his family,” the two lawmakers said in a statement earlier Saturday. “This should not happen in America. We shouldn’t have to demand the release of refugees one by one. We must fight this executive order in the streets, in the courts, anywhere, anytime. We must resist. We must fight. We must keep working to keep America the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
Pandemonium over Trump’s new executive order erupted at airports nationwide on Saturday, with reports of dozens of immigrants and travelers stranded or turned back in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., New York and Dallas as demonstrators flooded airports to denounce Trump’s directive. One Syrian Christian family who had been working with Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) were detained at Philadelphia International Airport and then subsequently forced to leave, according to the congressman.
During a press conference at Dulles International Airport, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said one family had been detained as he slammed Trump’s order as one that will “breed hatred toward Americans around the globe.” Fifty people were being held at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, according to local reports.
But at the White House, Trump said his order was being carried out just as he planned.
“It’s not a Muslim ban, but we were totally prepared,” Trump said. “It’s working out very nicely. You see it at the airports, you see it all over.”
Customs and Border Protection agents who detained the men at JFK are pointing to Trump’s executive order, telling the immigrants’ attorneys: “Mr. President. Call Mr. Trump,” according to the 20-page lawsuit. which was also filed by the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Darweesh, now 53, worked on behalf of the U.S. military in Iraq for a decade as an interpreter and electrical engineer, earning him a so-called “special immigrant visa” that are allotted to Iraqi nationals who aided the U.S. government during the Iraq War and now face threats staying there. Darweesh applied for the visa in Oct. 1, 2014, which was issued on Jan. 20, the same day Trump was inaugurated.
And Alshawi, 33, was granted a visa Jan. 11 to join his wife and son, who have already been resettled as refugees in Houston.
The lawsuit argues that the detention of two men is “part of a widespread pattern applied to many refugees and arriving aliens detained after the issuance of” Trump’s executive order on Friday.
On a call with reporters Saturday, Abed Ayoub, legal and policy director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said CBP officials had told advocates dozens of people were being held at JFK as a result of the executive order.
He also cited reports of people being held at airports in Atlanta, Detroit, Houston and Washington, D.C.
“We’re already hearing about hundreds of people being detained at airports,” said Marielena Hincapie, the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “It got issued late on a Friday afternoon, it was not released to the public for several hours and then here on a Friday night over the weekend, we’re dealing with hundreds of people who have been arriving with no guidance to Border Patrol personnel.”
Trump’s far-reaching executive order does allow for some exemptions at the discretion of administration officials, including “when the person is already in transit and denying admission would cause undue hardship.” But advocates such as Hincapie say the messy rollout of Trump’s controversial directive is triggering confusion and chaos at airports nationwide, since border patrol officers have received little guidance on how to implement the order.
“They failed to inform airports about what to do,” Hincapie said.
Darweesh’s wife and three children were also granted visas and traveled with him, but were not detained. They are supposed to resettle in Charlotte, N.C. And neither men had been allowed to contact their lawyers, the lawsuit says.
Iraq is one of seven countries whose citizens, under Trump’s executive order released late Friday, are barred from entering the United States for 90 days, along with Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
The lawsuit, which alleges violation of Fifth Amendment rights for Darweesh and Alshawi, calls for the two men to be released and also asks a judge to issue an injunction asking the government not to detain any person just on the basis of Trump’s executive order. Lawyers are asking to broaden the lawsuit to a larger class of people who are facing similar issues trying to enter the United States.
“Each of these similarly situated individuals has been detained and questioned by CBP officials, denied entry to the United States, and subject to the threat of return to the country from which their travel originated,” the lawsuit claimed.
Spokespeople for the Justice Department and U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, as well as the White House, Department of Homeland Security, and Customs and Border Protection did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the suit. The lawsuit was filed in the Eastern District of New York.
Ted Hesson and Josh Gerstein contributed to this report.