Lawyers at New York airport aid travellers caught up in ban

New York, Feb 4 (IANS) A week after US President Donald Trump imposed a temporary travel ban for residents of seven Muslim-majority countries, dozens of lawyers remained at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to defend the rights of those affected, the media reported.

The Central Diner, a 24-hour eatery in Terminal 4, has become a makeshift office for lawyers, interpreters and others who are donating their time and effort to aid travellers, Efe news reported on Saturday.

Immigration attorney Tahanie Aboushi has been here all week assisting the families of some 100 people detained on arrival.

“This is a direct violation of the United States Constitution. The President’s executive order discriminates on the basis of nationality and we can’t stand by doing nothing in the face of something like this,” she told Efe news on Friday.

Aboushi recounts the case of a father and son who spent 33 hours in custody after arriving on a flight from Iran.

“They gave them two choices: be deported to Iran with a five-year prohibition on returning to the US, or face indefinite detention,” the lawyer said.

Since Trump issued the order on January 27, federal judges have issued temporary injunctions blocking the deportation of Iranians, Iraqis, Libyans, Syrians, Sudan, Somalis, and Yemenis who arrived in the US with valid visas.

But the problem extends beyond the borders of the US, according to Aboushi, who says that in some countries, airlines are preventing people of those nationalities – some with Green Cards – from boarding flights.

“People whose entry has been blocked have valid visas and even so they have been exhaustively interrogated and reviewed,” lawyer Steven DeMaio said. “We need to remember they are not illegals.”

“We have been told about cases in which authorities have asked permanent residents to sign form I-407, which implies a voluntary renunciation of their legal status,” DeMaio said.

The attorneys wait in the Terminal 4 arrivals hall with signs in English and Arabic reading “Have you seen someone being detained?” and “free legal aid”.

Around 200 people gathered outside JFK’s Terminal 4 on Friday for an interfaith prayer service organised by the New York Immigration Coalition and Majlis Al Shura: The Islamic Leadership Council of Greater New York.

“New York is home to 4.3 million immigrants and it is essential that we do everything we can to protect them against these anti-immigrant executive orders,” the coalition’s Muzna Ansari said.

“As a Muslim woman myself, I am heartened by the tremendous momentum achieved by diverse New York communities. We are showing the new administration that our New York is welcoming, inclusive, and will not rest until we receive justice,” she added.