Confusion at US airports after Trump’s immigration ban

After immigration agents detained two Iraqis on Saturday at New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport, their lawyers and two US representatives accompanying them tried to cross into a secure area – and were stopped themselves.
“Step back! Step back!” the agents shouted at them.
A few minutes later, Heidi Nassauer, chief of passenger operations for US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the airport, was called over.
Representatives Jerrold Nadler and Nydia Velazquez, both Democrats from New York, wanted clarification on whether an immigration ban issued on Friday by President Donald Trump prevented the Iraqis from consulting with attorneys.
Nassauer had no clear answer.
“We are as much in the dark as everybody else,” said the border protection official at one of the largest US airports.
The tense exchange, witnessed by Reuters, was representative of the confusion at airports across the United States and others overseas after Trump abruptly halted immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries and temporarily put a stop to the entry of refugees.
Throughout much of Saturday, government officials and security workers were left to guess who from those countries could enter the United States legally and who could not.
The day ended with a federal judge issuing an emergency stay that temporarily allowed stranded travelers with valid visas to remain in the United States. The American Civil Liberties Union, which sought the stay, said it would help 100 to 200 people with visas or refugee status who found themselves detained in transit or at U.S. airports.
Earlier on Saturday, the Trump administration said it would have been “reckless” to brief government agencies and airports more broadly in advance of launching the security measures, which it says are aimed at preventing attacks from foreign groups.
But career officials in the Homeland Security and State departments told Reuters the administration failed to appreciate the complexity of enforcing the order consistently or the need to prepare agencies and airlines.
Affected travelers had varying experiences at different airports, according to nearly 200 accounts gathered by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).
Many holding visas told the association they were allowed into the country without a problem despite Trump’s executive order banning them.
But some lawful permanent residents – those with so-called green cards – were turned away despite guidance to airlines from the CBP that they should be allowed to travel.
At about 10 p.m. on Friday in Seattle, some eight hours after Trump signed the executive order, an Iranian with dual Canadian citizenship from Vancouver was sent back to Canada, the traveler reported to AILA. A half hour later in New York City, an Iranian arrived at JFK and entered the United States on a valid visa without any problems, according to AILA.
A senior administration official said Trump’s order – aimed at citizens of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen – needed to be implemented urgently to protect Americans. Reuters

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