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Chaos, anger as Trump order halts some Muslim immigrants

Sunday, January 29, 2017 - 16:37

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President Donald Trump's order to restrict people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States sparked confusion and anger on Saturday after immigrants and refugees were kept off flights and left stranded in airports.

[WASHINGTON] President Donald Trump's order to restrict people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States sparked confusion and anger on Saturday after immigrants and refugees were kept off flights and left stranded in airports.

In his most sweeping decision since taking office a week ago, Trump, a Republican, put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily barred travelers from Syria and six other countries.

Civil rights and faith groups, activists and Democratic politicians were furious and vowed to fight the order.

Capping a day of confusion and chaos and protests in several airports across the country, a federal judge in Brooklyn, New York, granted a temporary reprieve. The American Civil Liberties Union successfully argued for a temporary stay that allowed detained travelers to stay in the United States.

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Supporters outside the Brooklyn courtroom and at protests at airports in Dallas, Chicago, New York and elsewhere cheered the decision, but a bigger fight lay ahead.

The court action does not reverse Trump's order, which was criticized by some of America's closest allies.

Mr Trump, a businessman who successfully tapped into American fears about terror attacks during his campaign, had promised what he called "extreme vetting" of immigrants and refugees from areas the White House said the US Congress deemed to be high risk.

He told reporters in the White House's Oval Office on Saturday that his order was "not a Muslim ban" and said the measures were long overdue. "It's working out very nicely. You see it at the airports, you see it all over," Mr Trump said.

Along with Syria, the ban affects travelers with passports from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The Department of Homeland Security said about 375 travelers had been affected by the order, 109 of whom were in transit and were denied entry to the United States. Another 173 were stopped by airlines before boarding.

The order "affects a minor portion of international travelers," the department said in a statement, saying the measures "inconvenienced" less than 1 per cent of travelers.

The new rules blindsided people in transit and families waiting for them, and caused havoc for businesses with employees holding passports from the targeted nations and colleges with international students.

Pegah Rahmani, 25, waited at Washington's Dulles airport for several hours for her grandparents, both Iranian citizens with US green cards. "They weren't treating them very well," she said.

Rahmani's grandfather is 88 and legally blind. Her grandmother is 83 and recently had a stroke. They were released to loud cheers and cries.

Several Democratic governors said they were examining whether they could launch legal challenges, and other groups eyed a constitutional challenge claiming religious discrimination. "I don't think anyone is going to take this lying down,"said Cleveland immigration lawyer David Leopold. "This is the tip of the spear and more litigation is coming." The White House did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

The Department of Homeland Security said the order would stay in place. "No foreign national in a foreign land, without ties to the United States, has any unfettered right to demand entry into the United States," the department statement said.

Mark Krikorian, the director of the conservative Center for Immigration Studies, called lawsuits challenging the order "last ditch efforts" that would only apply to a few individuals, and he said a broader constitutional argument would be hard to win. "The first amendment doesn't apply to foreigners living abroad. The law explicitly says the president can exclude any person or class of people he wants," Mr Krikorian said.

REUTERS

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