Just hours after President Donald Trump signed an executive order calling for “extreme vetting” of refugees from Muslim countries, immigration authorities detained at least three people at airports in New York and San Francisco, including a former translator for the U.S. Army in Iraq.
Lawyers scrambled to file an emergency lawsuit early Saturday morning to procure the release of two Iraqi refugees detained at JFK International Airport in New York, The Washington Post reported.
Speaking to the Post, Betsy Fisher, policy director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, called the detentions “our worst-case scenario.”
One of the refugees detained last night is 53-year-old Hameed Khalid Darweesh, a former U.S. government contractor and translator for U.S. troops in Iraq. Darsweesh, who was traveling with his family, has not been allowed to speak to his attorneys, and faces “enormous risks” to his personal safety should he be forcefully returned to Iraq, Post reported.
A second Iraqi refugee, 33-year-old Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, also was detained at JFK on his way to join his wife and child in Texas.
Mark Doss, an International Refugee Assistance Project attorney, told The New York Times on Saturday that when he attempted to speak to his client at the airport, a Customs agent reportedly told him to “call Mr. Trump.”
“These are people with valid visas and legitimate refugee claims who have already been determined by the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to be admissible and to be allowed to enter the U.S. and now are being unlawfully detained,” Doss told the Times.
Immigration groups say another refugee family was detained at San Francisco International Airport, and other detentions may be happening across the country.
Trump signed an executive order Friday that reportedly would block visas for people from Syria, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen–all predominantly Muslim countries.
“We don’t want ’em here. We want to ensure that we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas,” Trump said in remarks before signing the order at the Pentagon.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations said it would file a lawsuit next week to challenge the constitutionality of Trump’s order, The Washington Post reported.