Mideast passengers scramble to enter U.S. after judge overturns travel ban

by WorldTribune Staff, February 5, 2017

Thousands of travelers from the Mideast are rushing to enter the United States after a Seattle judge lifted President Donald Trump’s travel ban for citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The Trump administration has suspended the ban’s enforcement in compliance with the Feb. 3 order of U.S. District Judge James Robart.

Protesters at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. / Getty Images

Trump tweeted: “Because the ban was lifted by a judge, many very bad and dangerous people may be pouring into our country. A terrible decision.”

A federal appeals court on Feb. 5 denied the Justice Department’s request for an immediate reinstatement of Trump’s order.

The Department of Homeland Security no longer was directing airlines to prevent visa-holders affected by Trump’s order from boarding U.S.-bound planes. The agency said it had “suspended any and all actions” related to putting in place Trump’s order.

The State Department said nearly 60,000 visas had been suspended because of Trump’s ban.

“I am very happy that we are going to travel today. Finally, we made it,” Fuad Sharef, an Iraqi with an immigration visa who was prevented from boarding a flight to New York last week, told Reuters. “I didn’t surrender and I fought for my right and other people’s right.”

Sharef told said he and his family were to fly from Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, to Istanbul and then to New York, before arriving at their final destination in Nashville.

On Feb. 4, a group of immigration lawyers were offering services to passengers arriving at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, Reuters reported.

“This is an instance where people could really slip through the cracks and get detained and nobody would know,” said John Biancamano, an attorney volunteering his services.

At Dulles International Airport outside Washington, volunteer lawyers were helping travelers and monitoring how visa holders and permanent residents were being treated as they arrived.

Iraqi refugee Nizar al-Qassab told Reuters in Lebanon that if Trump’s order “really has been frozen, I thank God, because my wife and children should have been in America by now.”

He said his family had been due to travel to the United States for resettlement on Jan. 31. The trip was canceled two days before that and he was now waiting for a phone call from UN officials overseeing their case. “It’s in God’s hands,” he said.