Fresh restrictions on travel to the United States kicked into gear Thursday night as a revamped version of U.S. President Donald Trump's discriminatory travel ban takes effect in airports across the United States.
While administration officials keen to avoid controversy are telling the press that they “expect business as usual,” advocates are preparing for the worst and will be present at the airports to ensure that rights violations don't take place, as happened during previous iterations of the so-called “Muslim Ban.”
“We're essentially trying to monitor flights,” Ameena Qazi, executive director of National Lawyer's Guild-Los Angeles, told teleSUR from Los Angeles International Airport. “This administration has been absolutely unpredictable, we never know what to expect — and Customs and Border Protection has always been discriminatory toward our (Muslim) community. That's why we're here today.”
Her group, along with Public Counsel, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, One Justice, the ACLU of Southern California, and Immigrant Defenders are among the organizations and individual advocates who are vigilantly watching U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents to ensure that rights violations don't occur. Over a dozen lawyers and legal workers from the groups have set up information tables, while others are standing in the airport's terminals holding signs to notify those seeking assistance.
The anti-Muslim measures will hit travelers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Libya, banning many who need visas from the U.S. for the next 90 days and potentially imposing a 120-ban on countless refugees.
Those hit hardest will be travelers who don't fit the White House criteria for “bona fide” relationship with universities or businesses in the U.S. or its strange definition of what constitutes “close family” ties with U.S. kin, including grandparents, grandchildren, cousins, nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles and in-laws — a criteria that advocates say defies logic and hints at the vindictive and inherently racist nature of “Muslim Ban” redux.
Karen Tumlin, legal director of the National Immigration Law Center, said the administration's guidance "would slam the door shut on so many who have waited for months or years to be reunited with their families."
Messages from officials have also hinted that refugees placed with a resettlement agency who are fleeing dire humanitarian crises, won't be exempted from the restrictions if they have been in the past, potentially curtailing the resettlement of asylum-seekers and refugees in a severe manner over the next four months.
Advocates and officials, however, aren't expecting the frenzied scenes witnessed earlier in the year, mainly because of the far more clear-cut definition of those not allowed to enter the U.S. Trump officials are hoping that after two executive orders and significant modification, the travel ban will not be challenged.
At LAX, large demonstrations haven't yet materialized. Despite that, Qazi explained, the legal community is organized and on-deck at the airports — and they're not alone, with dozens of colleagues waiting on-call to spring into action, as well as myriad social movement organizers waiting to descend on the airport to protest and hold other actions if CBP oversteps its duties.
“This shows where the movement is at,” Qazi said. “We have real unity now between our different groups, real unity in legal work, we share each others' info, and we're united in doing what we can to restrain CBP. They know we're watching.”