Trump gives no sign of backing down from US entry ban affecting 7 countries
The Trump administration showed no sign Sunday of backing down from an executive order that bans entry to the United States from refugees, migrants and even green-card holders from seven mostly Muslim countries — even as lawmakers from both parties spoke out against the action and federal judges ruled against parts of it.
Judicial rulings in several cities across the country overnight immediately blocked enforcement of the ban to various degrees, but the Department of Homeland Security issued a statement early Sunday indicating it would continue to implement President Donald Trump's action.
The statement, which did little to clear up the confusion and frustration playing out at airports across the globe, said the administration "will comply with judicial orders" even as it continues to carry out the president's order.
"Prohibited travel will remain prohibited, and the U.S. government retains its right to revoke visas at any time if required for national security or public safety," the statement said. "No foreign national in a foreign land, without ties to the United States, has any unfettered right to demand entry into the United States or to demand immigration benefits in the United States."
Just after 8 a.m. Sunday, Trump tweeted: "Our country needs strong borders and extreme vetting, NOW. Look what is happening all over Europe and, indeed, the world — a horrible mess!"
Trump's aggressive action triggered a wave of criticism from Democrats on Capitol Hill, but also from a growing number of lawmakers in his own party.
"You have an extreme vetting proposal that didn't get the vetting it should have," Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union," even as he stopped short of opposing the order outright.
Portman said that he supports the rulings by several federal judges staying the part of the order that affects legal permanent residents and visa holders and prevents them from entering the country.
Portman's concerns echoed those expressed by some other Republicans, including Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., who on Saturday called the president's order "ridiculous."
"I guess I understand what his intention is, but unfortunately the order appears to have been rushed through without full consideration," Dent said. "You know, there are many, many nuances of immigration policy that can be life or death for many innocent, vulnerable people around the world."
But Republican leaders in Congress on Sunday did not join the opposition to Trump's order.
"I don't want to criticize them for improving vetting," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on ABC's "This Week." He cautioned that the United States doesn't have a religious test for entry into the country, but stopped short of saying that Trump's action amounted to a Muslim ban.
"I think we need to be careful," McConnell said. "We don't have religious tests in this country."
The Department of Homeland Security noted that "less than one percent" of international air travelers arriving Saturday in the United States were "inconvenienced" by the executive order — though the situation described by lawyers and immigrant advocates across the country Saturday was one of widespread uncertainty and even chaos at airports where travelers from the targeted countries were suddenly detained.
The virtually unprecedented action applies to migrants, refugees and U.S. legal residents — green-card holders — from Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Libya and Yemen. But people subject to being denied entry include dual nationals, who are those born in one of the seven countries who also hold passports from U.S. allies such as the United Kingdom.
Federal judges began stepping in late Saturday as requests for stays of Trump's action flooded courtrooms from coast to coast.
Late Saturday, a federal judge in New York temporarily blocked deportations nationwide. Her ruling was followed by similar decisions by federal judges in Virginia, Seattle and Boston.
In Brooklyn, Judge Ann Donnelly of the U.S. District Court granted a request from the American Civil Liberties Union to stop the deportations after determining that the risk of injury to those detained by being returned to their home countries necessitated the decision.
Next came a temporary restraining order by District Judge Leonie Brinkema in Alexandria, Virginia, who blocked for seven days the removal of any green-card holders detained at Dulles International Airport. Brinkema's action also ordered that lawyers have access to those held there because of the ban.
In Seattle, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas S. Zilly granted an emergency stay preventing the deportation of two people had been detained at the Sea-Tac International Airport, according to the ACLU of Washington, which joined other advocates in filing an emergency motion. The two people remain in federal custody and will have a hearing later this week, the group said.
Just before 2 a.m. Sunday in Boston, two federal judges ruled for two University of Massachusetts Dartmouth associate professors — Iranian nationals who are permanent legal residents in the United States — who were held at Logan International Airport when they landed after travel for an academic conference.
The judges there also put a seven-day restraining order on Trump's executive action. It allows any approved refugee, visa holder, or green-card holder to fly into Boston over the next 7 days and requires Customs and Border Protection to notify airlines that fly into Logan Airport that those passengers will not be detained or forced to return. The ruling applies only to Massachusetts.
The president's order triggered harsh reactions Saturday from not only Democrats and others who typically advocate for immigrants but also key sectors of the U.S. business community. Leading technology companies recalled scores of overseas employees and sharply criticized the president. Legal experts forecast a wave of litigation over the order, calling it unconstitutional. Lawyers and advocates for immigrants are advising them to seek asylum in Canada.
Yet Trump, who centered his campaign in part on his vow to crack down on illegal immigrants and impose what became known as his "Muslim ban,'' was unbowed. As White House officials insisted that the measure strengthens national security, the president stood squarely behind it.
"It's not a Muslim ban, but we were totally prepared," Trump told reporters Saturday in the Oval Office. "You see it at the airports, you see it all over. It's working out very nicely, and we're going to have a very, very strict ban, and we're going to have extreme vetting, which we should have had in this country for many years."
In New York, Donnelly seemed to have little patience for the government's arguments, which focused heavily on the fact that the two defendants named in the lawsuit had already been released.
Donnelly noted that those detained were suffering mostly from the bad fortune of traveling while the ban went into effect. "Our own government presumably approved their entry to the country," she said at one point, noting that, had it been two days earlier, those detained would have been granted admission without question.
During the hearing, ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt informed the court that he had received word of a deportation to Syria, scheduled within the hour. That prompted Donnelly to ask if the government could assure that the person would not suffer irreparable harm. Receiving no such assurance, she granted the stay to the broad group included in the ACLU's request.
A senior Department of Homeland Security official said late Saturday that 109 people had been denied entry into the United States. All had been in transit when Trump signed the order, he said, and some had already departed the United States on flights by late Saturday while others were still being detained awaiting flights. Also, 173 people had not been allowed to board U.S.-bound planes at foreign airports.
In the wake of the first two judicial rulings late Saturday, cheers erupted at Dulles Airport in Northern Virginia as a couple emerged from the gray doors blocking the Customs and Border Protection screening area. "Go see the lawyers!" about 150 protesters chanted, directing them toward a throng of volunteer lawyers.
The young woman was teary as she pushed a full luggage cart toward the terminal exit. Another woman, who also was crying, ran up to her. "I'm looking for my parents! They are elderly!"
Javad Fotouha said he is Iranian but has a green card. He said he and his wife had been detained for four hours after landing at Dulles about 6:30 p.m.
"We saw elderly people and disabled people" being detained, Fotouha said.
He said he and his wife had read on their phones during their layover in Istanbul that Trump had signed the executive order about five hours earlier. "Yes, I was scared," Fotouha said.
At 11:35 p.m., about 80 protesters and lawyers started chanting "Contempt of court!" and "Let them in!" as lawyers said officials were ignoring the federal judge's order requiring that they have access to people being detained.
Fatemeh Ebrahimi, an Iranian who lives in Montgomery County, Maryland, was released at Dulles just before midnight, following a nearly six-hour wait with her two children after their plane landed. She said they traveled to Iran 10 days ago to celebrate birthdays with friends and family.
Ebrahimi said she has a green card, and her children, ages 21 and 7, are U.S. citizens. Her son emerged in a wheelchair with his sister on his lap, saying authorities had given them soup to eat while they waited.
"My kids are so tired right now," a weary-looking Ebrahimi said as she made her way through a thicket of lawyers and reporters toward the terminal doors. "They just kept us waiting."
Shortly after midnight, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., emerged from a Dulles Airport hallway being guarded by police officers near the customs screening area. Speaking to a crowd of more than 100 protesters, Booker said federal officials had told him that the remaining detainees would be released "momentarily."
Volunteer lawyers said one person remained to be released as of 12:30 a.m. The lawyers said others who had been released had told them two additional men had been handcuffed after they refused to give authorities their green cards, and their status was unknown. Lawyers said they still had not been permitted to speak with those being detained — what they called a violation of the federal judge's court order.
Booker told protesters that he agreed with the attorneys and predicted a "long, arduous and tough fight" over the executive order. "This is not a one-night thing, and it's not a one-day thing," he said.
After most protesters and lawyers had gone home for the night, Binto Adan and her two young children, an 8-year-old boy and 9-year-old girl, emerged at 1:20 a.m. Sunday from the customs screening area. Adan ducked under the ropes lining the walkway and hugged two relatives who were waiting for them.
Adan's daughter had tears in her eyes as her mother led the children toward the terminal exit. Adan did not speak to reporters, but one of her relatives said the family endured a 17-hour ordeal.
A nephew of Adan's, Najib Abi, said his aunt and her children arrived at Dulles at 8 a.m. Saturday from Kenya. They were supposed to transfer to another flight to live in Minnesota, where her husband was waiting for them. The family is Somali, but the children and their father are U.S. citizens, Abi said. Adan has an I-130 visa for relatives of U.S. citizens, he said.
Abi said immigration officials called his uncle Saturday, saying his wife and children were detained. Abi said his uncle was told that someone would need to retrieve the children by 9:30 a.m. Sunday or they would be sent back to Kenya with their mother.
Abi said he and other relatives arrived at Dulles from Minnesota late Saturday. He said Adan didn't have a cellphone. "We weren't allowed to talk to them," Abi said.
Then, without any explanation, Adan and her children were released.
As of 2 a.m., one Syrian woman was still detained at Dulles, said Mirriam Seddiq, a volunteer lawyer. Attorneys were told that the woman would be held overnight and would have an initial asylum hearing Sunday morning, Seddiq said.
The woman arrived at Dulles at 7 p.m. Saturday with a nonimmigrant J2 visa, Seddiq said. Her husband is in the United States on a J1 visa for professional training, Seddiq said.
Several lawyers would spend the night at Dulles, Seddiq said, with more returning Sunday morning to try to get access to any international passengers detained.
A Customs and Border Protection official at Dulles told lawyers that they were awaiting directions from the Department of Homeland Security's counsel office, Seddiq said.
Philip Bump in New York, Daniel Gross in Boston and Sarah Larimer in Washington contributed to this report.