The world around us is changing. Whether we like it or not, the dynamics of international relations are strained, at best. And this affects travel. With the recent drama surrounding the travel immigration ban and its effects on travel, it is something that must be addressed by the travel community.
I am BarrisTourista. The “barris” portion is for barrister, or lawyer. But I am by no means an expert in immigration law. So I called upon one of my attorney colleagues, Lindsay Toczylowski, the Executive Director of Immigration Defenders Law Center. She was on the front lines this past weekend, spearheading the efforts at LAX to get detainees—including children—released from custody even after a federal judge ordered that they could not be held. Her weekend was long and her devoted passion to ensure the rights of immigrants has long been documented even before this weekend. So we asked her to weigh in on the recent legal issues that have arisen and what they mean for travelers.
Can you tell us a little bit about Immigration Defenders Law Center and its mission?
Immigrant Defenders Law Center is a next-generation social justice law firm that defends our immigrant communities against systemic injustices in the legal system. We envision a future where no immigrant will be forced to face immigration court alone. Our programs are a first step towards the long-term goal of providing universal representation to all immigrants facing deportation. We provide deportation defense representation to approximately 700 adults and children annually. Since the executive order was signed last week, our attorneys have been on the ground at LAX trying to help affected travelers and families.
What is the situation with the Executive Order regarding immigrants that as just signed?
Trump signed the “Muslim Ban” Executive Order on Friday, January 27. The order prohibits immigrant and nonimmigrant entries to the United States of individuals from the following countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen for at least 90 days. Further, the order states that the U.S. will not be receiving any refugees from any country for the next 120 days.
Since the 27th, travelers, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and others have been trying to understand its implications as it was signed without clear directives to affected federal government agencies. Because there was no warning, many travelers were stuck after learning of the order after travel had already commenced. There has been mass confusion at airports across the world. There has also been confusion regarding whether this applies to legal permanent residents returning from trips abroad, and the messages coming from DHS, the White House, and others have been contradictory.
How will this order affect travelers internationally?
If you are a national from one of the 7 affected countries, advocates are recommending you do not leave the U.S., as it is likely you will not be able to return while this ban is in effect. This is also true for anyone currently living in the U.S. as a refugee, regardless of their country of origin. Further, it is clear from the language of the order that the number of countries designated as “detrimental to the interest of the United States” may increase, and there are leaked “draft” executive orders circulating the internet that indicate this may be imminent. Therefore, for those in the United States who are nationals of any Muslim-majority country, international travel is risky at this time as it is unknown when Trump may sign another executive order and expand the list of affected countries.
What, if any, advice do you have for immigrants in the country with regard to their travels?
For non-US citizens living in the U.S. who are from any Muslim-majority country, or for persons living in the US on a refugee visa, I would recommend speaking to an experienced immigration attorney before commencing international travel. If you are waiting for family members to enter the U.S. from one of the countries named in the order, it is advisable to seek legal counsel in order to see if their entry will be permitted. Sadly, we have heard of many families losing thousands of dollars in cancelled flight costs when the airlines refused to let them board abroad due to the mass confusion caused by these orders.
What are the repercussions of this order that some people may not be contemplating but could arise in the future?
This ban sends an official message of exclusion of Muslims from entering the country and Trump is masking that bigoted message behind “national security concerns.” Also, by banning refugee entrants at a time when there is a refugee crisis in Syria, the U.S. is turning our backs on those who need it most at the time when the situation is most critical. This will not make us safer, and sadly will likely make us more vulnerable in the future.
The ACLU has gotten an emergency stay of Trump’s order? What does that mean for immediate travelers and those traveling in the near future?
There is a lot of litigation happening simultaneously and stays and TROs have been granted in various jurisdictions. Here is a good clearinghouse that is cataloging all of the suits: https://www.clearinghouse.net/featuredCase.php?id=40
One major issue is that even in light of the stays issued, it is unclear that DHS, and particularly Customs and Border Protection (CBP), are abiding by the Judge’s orders. There has been a complete stonewalling of communication from the agencies to attorneys working in the airports, and because of that we have no way to monitor compliance. The potentiality of agencies ignoring or only selectively following federal judge’s decisions and stays raises real concerns about the rule of law in the U.S. during this administration. What we saw this weekend in terms of confusion within the government agencies, and at times defiance of the Judge’s orders, is truly frightening and unprecedented.
Do you anticipate that other countries will begin to limit American travelers to their country and close borders?
Iran has already instituted this policy, and I think we can definitely expect to see more countries following suit.
What advice do you have for U.S. citizens traveling abroad in light of this most recent executive order?
For most US citizens, this order will not affect them, although we can expect that civil unrest at airports around the country will continue and potentially delay flights. My advice to U.S. citizens in light of the order is: STAY OUTRAGED. Even if you do not have issues returning to the U.S., the fact that so many people lawfully entering the U.S. are being thrown into such uncertainty based on a xenophobic and unconstitutional executive order should outrage us all regardless of whether we are personally impacted.
If you had to sum up how this situation affects the future of travel for those in the U.S., what are your thoughts?
I feel like this order, and the chaos that it caused with its rolling out, will make international travel less certain. If the ripple effect is retaliation with countries revoking visas for U.S. citizens, international travel could become more costly and difficult.
We hope this article is of some assistance. It is particularly important to note that, as Lindsay indicated, other executive order with additional countries have been leaked, so there is a chance that the affected countries will increase. In turn, it may become increasing difficult for U.S. citizens to travel to various parts of the world.
We have also heard firsthand reports of attorneys assisting people from countries that are not even included on this executive order that they were questioned regarding their allegiance to Trump and asking if people had social media that they could monitor. That should alarm everyone, whether you are a supporter or not, because we do have a little thing called the First Amendment.
Stay vigilant and keep up on the latest news. We will do our best to keep you updated on the latest news on BarrisTourista’s Facebook page. And thank you again to Lindsay for her insights from the front lines!