President Donald Trump’s executive order restricting immigration to foreign nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen left nearly 20 travellers temporarily detained at O’Hare International Airport over the weekend.
Federal judges blocked parts of the order Saturday night and the nationals, many who had green cards, were released to the approval of more than a thousand cheering protesters.
Mercedes Badia-Tavas, Chicago Chair of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said she was at O’Hare on Saturday “in the mayhem.”
Badia-Tavas spoke with Morning Shift’s Tony Sarabia and explained the legal response to the order.
In response to a lawsuit, a judge in New York “stayed” President Trump’s executive order over the weekend. What does that mean?
Mercedes Badia-Tavas: My understanding is the lead case was filed in New York and the plaintiffs (were) a Syrian couple arriving as special immigrants who had helped the military in Iraq -- and they were being detained. The case was filed by the (American Civil Liberties Union). The order from the judge, as I understand it, was a national stay certifying the class -- so there was a class action requested in the complaint.
Subsequent to that, in different locations throughout the U.S., being Virginia, Boston and I believe there was a case in Seattle, judges ruled -- and the (rulings) were slightly different in each one. The (lawsuit) in Boston is requesting (that detainees have) access to council and that permanent residents should be allowed in. The attorneys in the New York case now are seeking clarification from the judge on more specifics as to the order, since there has been disparity in the orders throughout the country.
Should people with green cards be concerned?
Badia-Tavas: Well, yes they should be concerned. The decision coming down from (Homeland Security) Secretary (John) Kelly was that now green card holders were considered to be in the national interest. It seems that on a case-by-case basis they are being admitted. Reports are that they are being scrutinized still, particularly if they are from the seven countries that have been designated.
What will happen to green card holders who are outside the United States, but not in transit?
Badia-Tavas: As far as we know, at this moment, green card holders are allowed on the planes -- or at least they should be allowed on the planes -- to travel to the United States. When they arrive, they are subject to additional screening. If there’s no detrimental or heightened issue on that individual, they should be able to be admitted. It’ll probably take a little longer to get through security, but there should be no issue, particularly if it’s a woman with a child who is a U.S. citizen, has no criminal record and no issues, she should be allowed in. She should not -- in any way -- relinquish her permanent residency. That is done only in voluntary situations. The officer should not force her to relinquish (her permanent residency) and if they insist upon it, she (should) ask to go before an immigration judge. They would have to issue an NTA, a notice to appear before a judge.
Are there exceptions to the executive order?
Badia-Tavas: The order also gives some leniency for humanitarian reasons. Again, no clear guidance has been given and that is the problem. You can’t just execute an executive order not understanding the mechanics or pretending to understand the mechanics, and then not give your foot soldiers on the ground guidance.
What were attorneys doing on site at O’Hare airport on Saturday?
Badia-Tavas: I was out there Saturday in the mayhem and they were predominantly either permanent residents that were being detained, held and questioned, or students. What attorneys were doing was kind of triaging to find out who was in the back part in the inspection section. There’s primary inspection (and) secondary (inspection and) they were being held in secondary. In secondary, they have no right to counsel. Period. It is difficult to get information, so (the attorneys) were (speaking with) families who were in the (waiting) area asking questions: “Do you have someone back there that has not come out yet? Who are they?” And the families came forward.
When I got out there, there was a table -- a collection of attorneys on laptops -- preparing habeuses. (They were) drafting habeuses for individuals whose families had come up to the attorneys or the attorneys had sought them out.
What are some of the concerns you continue to hear from refugees and detainees or their families?
Badia-Tavas: The refugees in particular have gone through a lot. It’s 24 months of screening before any refugee is on a plane to the United States and landing. So they’ve gone through extreme vetting.
Refugees are refugees. They’ve lost homes, they’ve gone through horrific, horrific military situations that I can’t even imagine. Having them turned away, when they had no knowledge and they were coming to the United States as their new home, on a human level I find that horrific. Now they’ve been turned back and they don’t know when they’ll be able to arrive because it’s an indefinite ban. That’s a major concern for families here, for communities that were receiving them -- everything. It’s just chaos.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. Click ‘Play’ above to listen to the entire segment.