WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump’s most far reaching action since taking office plunged America’s immigration system into chaos on Saturday, not only for refugees but for legal US residents who were turned away at airports and feared being stranded outside the country.
Immigration lawyers and advocates worked through the night trying to help stranded travelers find a way back home. Lawyers in New York sued to block the order, saying many people have already been unlawfully detained, including an Iraqi who worked for the US Army in Iraq.
Confusion abounded at airports as immigration and customs officials struggled to interpret the new rules, with some legal residents who were in the air when the order was issued detained at airports upon arrival.
“Imagine being put back on a 12-hour flight and the trauma and craziness of this whole thing,” said Mana Yegani, an immigration lawyer in Houston. “These are people that are coming in legally. They have jobs here and they have vehicles here.”
The new Republican president on Friday put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily barred travelers from Syria and six other Muslim-majority countries. He said the moves would protect Americans from terrorism, in a swift and stern delivery on a campaign promise.
The ban affects travelers with passports from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and extends to green card holders who are legal permanent residents of the United States.
Arab travelers in the Middle East and North Africa said the order was humiliating and discriminatory. It drew widespread criticism from US Western allies including France and Germany, Arab-American groups and human rights organizations.
Iran condemned the order as an “open affront against the Muslim world and the Iranian nation” and vowed to retaliate.