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Refugees who were en route to the United States on Friday evening have been detained at U.S. airports and restricted from the country as a result of President Trump’s executive order banning their entry.
Lawyers for two Iraqi refugees detained at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport filed a middle-of-the-night lawsuit in federal court challenging Trump’s executive order as unconstitutional and seeking the release of their clients.
They also are seeking class certification so they may represent all refugees who are being similarly held at U.S. ports of entry. Immigration advocates say at least one refugee family is detained at San Francisco International Airport, but it is not clear how many refugees are currently detained at airports nationwide.
Both Iraqi men now detained at JFK had been receiving pro-bono legal assistance for several months from the New York-based International Refugee Assistance Project. Betsy Fisher, the organization’s policy director, said the men were in the air on separate flights when Trump signed the temporary ban on refugees Friday. She called their detention “our worst-case scenario.”
“In the coming weeks we will be advocating to show why this policy is bad for U.S. national security, why it goes against our humanitarian responsibilities, and why it is fundamentally un-American,” Fisher said. “If there is one fundamentally American value then it is welcoming those who are fleeing persecution. At our best, this is what we can do.”