Legal and immigrant rights groups jumped into action over the weekend, after the implementation of President Trump’s executive order banning people from seven countries from entering the United States.
Surprisingly – and some reports say this even surprised Homeland Security officials – the travel ban extended to legal resident aliens – often referred to as green card holders – from coming back to the states if they were visiting overseas.
This led to a lot of confusion and hundreds of people held at various airports, including McCarran International Airport.
Amy Rose is the legal director at the ACLU of Nevada. She and another immigration lawyer went to McCarran Saturday to sort out what was going on.
She said as far as she knew nobody at McCarran was detained or sent back to the country they had flown from, but there were people, including legal residents, who had to wait hours before being allowed to go home.
“Every single person coming out of there was just exhausted, devastated, and every single person was close to tears if not in tears,“ she said.
Rose described the situation as "heartbreaking." She said people who were held were asked questions about why they were coming to the United States, how much money they had with them and other probing questions.
“That’s really, really concerning that people who live here, who have homes here are being stopped and being unable to enter or their status is being questioned. So, all of that is pretty disturbing,” she said.
The executive order bans all refugees from coming to the United States for 120 days. Refugees from the civil war in Syria are banned indefinitely. The order also bans nationals from seven majority-Muslim countries. The order does have an exception for Christians.
“Really, at the end of the day, what this is is a ban on people based on religion that’s really what’s concerning here,” Rose said.
Rose pointed out that people who have received refugee status have gone through an extensive process to get that status.
“What’s really upsetting about the refugees that are being denied [is] they’ve already been vetted," she said, "They go through a really extreme process to get that refugee status. They’ve been cleared by the federal government to come in and they wake up the next morning and what has changed? Absolutely nothing but this executive order.”
Lawsuits were filed as early as Friday night. Judges quickly ordered delays to the implementation of the executive order. By Sunday, though, reports were coming through that the Trump administration was ignoring the court orders.
Rose said the lawsuits have been based on everything from due process issues for legal residents to laws that prohibit banning immigrants based on their country of origin.
To make matters even more complicated, Rose said some customs and border patrol agents have decided not to comply with rulings by judges. Some agents said they are following the orders of the executive branch not the judicial branch, which Rose said could be seen as a constitutional crisis.
“If the President of the United States is telling federal officers to ignore judicial orders - absolutely,” she said.
Rose said the whole situation is troubling on a lot of different levels.
“It is certainly incredibly problematic for our democratic system and incredibly disturbing for people who are caught in the middle of all of this,” she said.
Amy Rose, legal director, ACLU of Nevada.
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