Donald J Trump's executive order banning Muslims from entering the US threw the world into chaos yesterday, as US citizens, lawful permanent residents and visa holders found themselves stranded abroad, detained at airports on arrival to the USA, or helplessly waiting outside immigration checkpoint for news of sick and vulnerable family members who were held incommunicado by US immigration officials who refused to obey a US federal court order.
Immigration officials and the State Department were given little to no notice of the ban, and were in disarray when it came into effect. An unnamed senior US immigration official was so offended by the chaos and illegality that he spoke extensively and critically of the ban to reporters from The Intercept — presaging a near future in which US government employees open up back-channels to the press to complain about the administration's racist, unconstitutional and illegal conduct. He said the ban "took everyone by surprise" and that they "had less than a day to review vague details…This EO took hours, and we never, never saw the final draft."
The official described some of those turned away in the chaos: "a young mother of a U.S. citizen child, and students at some of the nation's top universities publicly recognized for their outstanding achievement. These students had already undergone rigorous U.S. government vetting before being admitted to the country, and had only traveled abroad briefly over their winter break."
According to the official, "They were only informed [that their visas had been terminated] when they attempted to use their visas to seek admission and were denied. Even though they were ignorant of the termination, they were still charged with violating U.S. immigration law and given a five-year ban to future admission."
The ban also resulted in bona fide refugee claimants being returned to countries where they faced detention and torture.
Most chillingly, CBP officials refused to comply with a federal court order suspending the ban, and would not discuss their decision with US Members of Congress who intervened on behalf of detainees. At LAX, CBP officials insisted that a visa-holding Iranian citizen named Sara Yarjani would have to fly to Copenhagen, and when Rep. Judy Chu and Rep. Nanette Barragan asked to speak to the officials about the court order, CBP said they reported to Donald J Trump and hung up on the Congresswomen.
I am a US green card holder, the son of a displaced person, the grandson of a child soldier, and the father of an immigrant. I am afraid.
A Texas resident named Stephanie Felten who contacted The Intercept said that her sister-in-law, an Iranian green card holder who has lived in Chicago for over a decade, was stranded in Iran after traveling there last week to visit family. With her in Iran is her three-year old daughter, an American citizen, who now has no way to return to the United States with her mother. Iran has promised a reciprocal ban on American citizens traveling there, effectively making it impossible for the child to see her father or the rest of her family.
"Nobody is providing any answers right now," said Felten. "We're just trying to confirm what we're hearing. You can read the executive order and try to make determinations but then news breaks that even people that are dual citizens are being turned away. Everyone is unsure where to turn."
"My family have become refugees from my country."
TRUMP'S MUSLIM BAN TRIGGERS CHAOS, HEARTBREAK, AND RESISTANCE [Ryan Devereaux, Murtaza Hussain and Alice Speri/The Intercept]