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Trump sued after Iraqis detained at airport

President Donald Trump’s executive order does allow for some exemptions at the discretion of administration officials, including “when the person is already in transit and denying admission would cause undue hardship.” | Getty

White House faces legal challenges over executive order after two men with visas to enter the U.S. were detained. One has since been released.

President Donald Trump and his new administration are facing legal challenges after two Iraqis with valid visas to enter the United States were detained at a New York airport, following his sweeping executive order that bars citizens from several Muslim-majority nations from entering the country.

Lawyers for the International Refugee Assistance Project and the National Immigration Law Center filed a lawsuit early Saturday in federal court seeking to release Hameed Khalid Darweesh and Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, who were being held at John F. Kennedy Airport.

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Darweesh was released early Saturday afternoon, according to aides to New York Democratic Reps. Jerry Nadler and Nydia Velazquez, who went to JFK to try and free the men. Alshawi was still in custody, as were at least 10 others in similar circumstances, according to Nadler’s office.

“We are pleased to announce that Hameed Khalid Darweesh has been released and can now be reunited with his family,” the two lawmakers said in a statement. “This should not happen in America. We shouldn’t have to demand the release of refugees one by one. We must fight this executive order in the streets, in the courts, anywhere, anytime. We must resist. We must fight. We must keep working to keep America the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Customs and Border Protection agents who detained the men at JFK are pointing to Trump’s executive order, telling the immigrants’ attorneys: “Mr. President. Call Mr. Trump,” according to the 20-page lawsuit. which was also filed by the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Darweesh, now 53, worked on behalf of the U.S. military in Iraq for a decade as an interpreter and electrical engineer, earning him a so-called “special immigrant visa” that are allotted to Iraqi nationals who aided the U.S. government during the Iraq War and now face threats staying there. Darweesh applied for the visa in Oct. 1, 2014, which was issued on Jan. 20, the same day Trump was inaugurated.

And Alshawi, 33, was granted a visa Jan. 11 to join his wife and son, who have already been resettled as refugees in Houston.

The lawsuit argues that the detention of two men is “part of a widespread pattern applied to many refugees and arriving aliens detained after the issuance of” Trump’s executive order on Friday.

On a call with reporters Saturday, Abed Ayoub, legal and policy director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said CBP officials had told advocates dozens of people were being held at JFK as a result of the executive order.

He also cited reports of people being held at airports in Atlanta, Detroit, Houston and Washington, D.C.

“We’re already hearing about hundreds of people being detained at airports,” said Marielena Hincapie, the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “It got issued late on a Friday afternoon, it was not released to the public for several hours and then here on a Friday night over the weekend, we’re dealing with hundreds of people who have been arriving with no guidance to Border Patrol personnel.”

Trump’s far-reaching executive order does allow for some exemptions at the discretion of administration officials, including “when the person is already in transit and denying admission would cause undue hardship.” But advocates such as Hincapie say the messy rollout of Trump’s controversial directive is triggering confusion and chaos at airports nationwide, since border patrol officers have received little guidance on how to implement the order.

“They failed to inform airports about what to do,” Hincapie said.

Darweesh’s wife and three children were also granted visas and traveled with him, but were not detained. They are supposed to resettle in Charlotte, N.C. And neither men had been allowed to contact their lawyers, the lawsuit says.

Iraq is one of seven countries whose citizens, under Trump’s executive order released late Friday, are barred from entering the United States for 90 days, along with Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

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The lawsuit, which alleges violation of Fifth Amendment rights for Darweesh and Alshawi, calls for the two men to be released and also asks a judge to issue an injunction asking the government not to detain any person just on the basis of Trump’s executive order. Lawyers are asking to broaden the lawsuit to a larger class of people who are facing similar issues trying to enter the United States.

“Each of these similarly situated individuals has been detained and questioned by CBP officials, denied entry to the United States, and subject to the threat of return to the country from which their travel originated,” the lawsuit claimed.

Spokespeople for the Justice Department and U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, as well as the White House, Department of Homeland Security, and Customs and Border Protection did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the suit. The lawsuit was filed in the Eastern District of New York.

Ted Hesson and Josh Gerstein contributed to this report.

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Source: POLITICO – TOP Stories

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