Lawyers Mobilize to Fight the Muslim Ban

January 31, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper |


JFK airport, January 29
Protest at JFK airport. Photo: Revolution/

Volunteer lawyers, translators and others camped out in a diner at John F. Kennedy Airport, trying to find and free people detained under the fascist ban, January 29.
Volunteer lawyers, translators and others camped out in a diner at John F. Kennedy Airport, trying to find and free people detained under the fascist ban, January 29. (AP photo)

With a stroke of Trump’s pen, an executive order upended the lives of 1,000s of people who were born in the predominantly Muslim countries Trump put on his banned list. The door slammed shut with no notice. Passengers in mid-flight when the order was signed were “detained.” Instead of being greeted by loved ones, they were in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) service under the direction of the Department of Homeland Security. Permanent residents of the U.S. (green card holders) were among those barred from entry, as were refugee families who had been screened for years and finally admitted to the U.S., valid visa holders... even a five-year-old separated from his parents, a stage 4 breast cancer patient—all were being barred from entering the U.S.

All across the country (including in red states like Kentucky, Indiana, Arkansas) people swarmed to the airports and public squares by the hundreds and thousands to demand they be let into the country and to protest Trump’s barely disguised Muslim ban. (See "Fascism on the March, Sharpening Crisis, and the Urgency to Act" by Sunsara Taylor.) It was very important that people did not wait to see how the legal fight in the courts would turn out, but immediately jumped into the fray.

At the same time, it was also very significant that lawyers mobilized to fight this Muslim ban. Immigration attorneys by the hundreds answered appeals from humanitarian groups, dropped everything and headed to the many U.S. airports where international flights land to help the people being detained. Together with and buoyed by the thousands of protesters, these attorneys fought to identify the people being detained, prevent their deportation, and secure their release. Pictures of their makeshift offices showed lawyers sitting on the floor of the airport terminal or camped out in an airport food court surrounded by cases of water and food donated by other volunteers to help keep them going, often through the night.

These lawyers worked with family members, sought out translators, and demanded that the rights of those being detained be respected. In one case, lawyers forced a plane to go back to the gate so that a woman who was being unlawfully deported to Syria could enter the U.S. Meantime, other lawyers and legal organizations, including very importantly the ACLU, worked feverishly to prepare the legal arguments that they took into federal courts around the country. They won court orders partially blocking the government’s expulsion of those who were on flights to the U.S. when the ban was ordered by Trump. In New York on Saturday, federal judge Ann M. Donnelly held that the petitioners had a “strong likelihood of success” in establishing that their removal “violates their rights to Due Process and Equal Protection guaranteed by the United States Constitution.” The judge blocked part of Trump’s order banning their entry into the U.S. in light of the immediate danger and irreparable damage if they were deported. Federal judges in Virginia and Massachusetts and other federal jurisdictions issued similar orders.



As important as these rulings are, they only block the removal of people already in the U.S. who were (or are) being detained at U.S. airports from the seven banned countries. The orders do not say that people being detained must be released, only that they can not be removed from the U.S. The orders do not overturn the executive order. Estimates are that up to 20,000 people who have been going through the difficult process of coming to the U.S. legally are now having their lives and plans torn up by the ban. This is the focus of another lawsuit being prepared by the ACLU. As a sign of opposition to the Muslim ban, the ACLU received more than $20 million in donations in just a few days.

CBP reportedly continued in some cases to carry out Trump’s executive order, even after the court orders blocking parts of the executive order (Muslim ban) were issued. Lawyers are quoted in the press from different parts of the country saying that they were denied knowledge of who was being detained and forcibly deported or denied access to their clients. Congresspeople seeking the same information were also turned away by CBP.

Some of the horror stories are only now starting to come to light.

The Guardian newspaper reported on a lawsuit filed on behalf of two Yemeni brothers, 19 and 20 years old, who were on their way to reunite with their father, a U.S. citizen, when they landed at Dulles Airport in Washington, DC. They were coerced into giving up their green cards with the threat that if they did not do so voluntarily, they would be barred from coming to the U.S. for another five years. They were denied access to lawyers, forced to buy their own return tickets, and shipped out of the country immediately.

There has to be a  major political and legal fight to end the ban, stop the wall, and most of all to oust the fascist regime that is on the march, trampling on people’s lives.



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