Just as the Trump administration has learned lessons from the chaotic roll-out of the first travel ban, so too have those who most opposed it.
Activists in Chicago say their efforts to help those who might be targeted should be more efficient this time.
“It’s a well-oiled machine at this point,” said Iman Boundaoui, one of the scores of lawyers who’ve volunteered at O’Hare International Airport, offering help in shifts to families impacted by the original ban.
But, as of Thursday morning, the prospect of the ban taking effect was in doubt. A federal judge issued a halt Wednesday evening, leaving the situation in flux.
Attorneys remained in place at O’Hare’s Terminal 5 on Thursday, offering free legal aid, but there was little for them to do.
“We never know, but we’re hoping it stays this way. The less drama the better,” said John Francis, a downtown Chicago attorney on duty at O’Hare Thursday.
Ban or no ban, “We don’t expect any mass detentions at the airport,” Hatem Abudayyeh, executive director of the Arab American Action Network, had said Wednedsay. “We still believe [the revised ban] is a racist and unconstitutional policy, but we don’t think the manifestations are going to be the same as they were when the first ban was signed.”
Instead, Abudayyeh and others were planning a protest and rally at 4:30 p.m. Thursday outside the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement field office at 101 W. Congress Pkwy.
The revised ban tries to erase the notion that it was designed to target Muslims by detailing more of a national security rationale. It is narrower and eases some concerns about violating the due process rights of travelers. It applies only to new visas from Somalia, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Yemen and temporarily shuts down the U.S. refugee program. It does not apply to travelers who already have visas.
Nevertheless, the new ban was being scrutinized in federal courtrooms across the country Wednesday.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel called it an “affront to American values.”
“The City of Chicago will fight to ensure that this country remains a welcoming beacon of hope to innocent refugees who seek to escape the life-threatening horrors of war, to asylum seekers, and to hardworking, law abiding immigrants who seek a better life,” Emanuel said in a written statement.
Lawyers for Emanuel and the mayors of Los Angeles, New York City and Boston filed a “friend-of-the-court” brief in the federal district court in Seattle, where six states have challenged the revised ban.
On Thursday, expect no more than a handful of lawyers offering help to families worried about loved ones being detained by customs officers. Back in late January, there were 20 lawyers at time at the airport — many of them holding up hand-written signs offering assistance.
“Now that we have a more streamlined process, we have less need for people to canvass and stand out near the exits at Terminal 5,” Boundaoui said.
That’s not to say it won’t be messy Thursday, several volunteer attorneys said.
“People will be nervous, families waiting for travelers will be confused and will need direction,” Boundaoui said.
Vivian Khalaf, one of the organizing attorneys, said the group has a long list of attorneys should the need arise for more help.
Khalaf said she’s learned a valuable lesson from her time at the airport: the power of persistence in dealing with Immigration and Customs agents who have detained travelers at O’Hare.
“You call once, twice, thrice,” she said. “You have to put pressure on them. … Depending on who is on duty, it’s up to them whether they want to speak to you, whether they want to be polite, whether they have empathy.”
Of the 20 or so times Khalaf has had to make the call in the last few months, “I’ve had cooperation maybe five times. At a certain point, they get sick of us [and say], ‘Ok. He’s back here and we haven’t questioned him yet.’”
Contributing: Associated Press