BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) — A federal judge issued an order Saturday night to protect refugees trapped at U.S. airports from being deported by blocking President Trump’s executive barring refugees from entering the United States. It took just 28 hours for Trump’s brazen executive order to be challenged in court and enjoined.
Trump signed an order at 4:42 p.m. Friday barring refugee admissions and visas for people from what he called seven “high-risk” countries whose dominant religions are Muslim, and barring Syrian refugees indefinitely. The seven other countries are Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen.
The Department of Homeland Security said the order also barred legal permanent residents, also known as green card holders, from those seven countries from re-entering the United States, unless allowed on a case-by-case basis.
Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union, Yale Law School and other groups sued Saturday morning in Brooklyn on behalf of two Iraqis with refugee visas who had been arrested Friday on arrival at JFK International Airport.
Lead plaintiff Hameed Khalid Darweesh, a husband and father of three, had been granted a special immigrant visa on Jan. 20, Election Day, “as a result of his service to the United States as an interpreter, engineer and contractor,” according to his lawsuit. He worked for the United States for more than a decade in Iraq. Officials released Darweesh from Kennedy Airport in Queens on Saturday night after U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly enjoined enforcement of Trump's executive order.
Co-plaintiff Haider Alshawi had been granted a follow-to-join visa on Jan. 11, to join his wife and son, who already had been “granted refugee status due to their family’s association with the United States military,” according to the complaint. Like Darweesh, Alshawi was arrested at JFK, en route to Houston, and was released after Judge Donnelly signed the order.
The ACLU says Homeland Security and Customs and Border Patrol had the men arrested and detained them at JKF airport, despite their possession of entry documents, “solely pursuant to an executive order issued on January 27, 2017.
The National Immigration Law Center, the International Refugee Assistance Project, and Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton are among the groups that signed onto the 20-page class action.
They say the executive order violates the due-process and equal-protection clauses of the Fifth Amendment, the right to apply for asylum under the Immigration and Nationality Act, the United Nations Convention Against Torture, the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998, and the Administrative Procedure Act.
Judge Donnelly restrained and enjoined the defendants from enforcing the executive order just before 9 p.m. Saturday. By then a crowd of hundreds had gathered outside the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, and hundreds more at JFK airport to protest Trump’s order. Protesters across the country assembled at O'Hare, Dulles and other airports where immigrants were being detained.
Donnelly wrote in a 3-page-order that “there is imminent danger that, absent the stay of removal, there will be substantial and irreparable injury to refugees, visa-holders, and other individuals from nations subject to the January 27, 2017 Executive Order."
"The petitioners have a strong likelihood of success in establishing that the removal of the petitioner and others similarly situated violates their rights to Due Process and Equal Protection guaranteed by the United States Constitution,” she added.