Immigration Attorneys on the Ground and in the Airports

Posted on February 7, 2017 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

Insider’s Update in Anticipation of Appeals Court Ruling on Refugee Ban



As our nation awaits, perhaps as early as tonight, clarification from a federal appeals court on the recent refugee ban, Catholic Charities Director of Immigrant & Refugee Services Mario Russell shares on-the-ground insights -- gleaned from mobilizing attorneys at local airports -- into the executive order’s issues and the chaos it caused.   

By C. Mario Russell

In the span of three days, President Trump unleashed on the American public three executive orders intended to change how this country welcomes and treats immigrants and refugees for a long time to come.  The last order, now held up at least temporarily in the courts after initially taking effect, caused anguish and uncertainty by its plans to indefinitely bar Syrian refugees, suspend the US Refugee Resettlement Program for 4 months, slash by more than 60,000 the number of refugees that will be admitted in the United States, and suspend for 90 days all immigrants from 7 targeted countries.  Among the casualties are America's standing. 

Catholic Charities attorneys mobilized immediately at JFK and Newark International airports to respond to the instant humanitarian crisis that was created among families seeking to resettle and reunify. The UNHCR estimates the four-month suspension would block over 20,000 refugees , while in just four days many thousands were prevented from boarding flights despite having valid visas and legal status. They were stuck in dangerous circumstances, separated from loved ones, from work, from school, from their homes. And, just as concerning, Customs and Border Protection acknowledged this week that over 800 people were detained at airports in just the first four days, creating the crisis that led to the intervention of hundreds of lawyers like us in major airports across the United States.

C. Mario Russell is Catholic Charities Senior Attorney and Director of Immigrant and Refugee Services. He also teaches immigration law at St. John’s University School of Law and is a regular contributor on immigration news for “El Diario” newspaper.

Gathering each day at the international arrivals terminals in New York and New Jersey, Catholic Charities lawyers met with spouses who had to leave their families behind, interviewed documented refugees who were threatened to be returned to the lands of war and violence they had fled, encountered businessmen and women who were refused entry, and sought to assist students, visitors, and legal permanent residents who were detained for hours while they were interviewed, re-examined, screened and searched. 

This is just the beginning, and this Executive Order has affected mostly those outside the United States. The other two orders span restrictive policies from the construction of a wall, to punishing sanctuary cities, to increasing the detention and deportation of immigrants, to reviving local immigration enforcement programs that had been largely abolished in the past years.  Lawsuits and resistance to the orders have already begun in many forms and a temporary stay was issued in federal court. Anticipating the Executive Orders’ implementation we must prepare and build our legal capacity to help families, children, workers.

Our nation has the right to protect its borders to keep our citizens safe. At the same time, protecting the rights and the dignity of the most vulnerable is an important tenet of our country.  We must do both within the bounds of our Constitution and the rights it secures.  We must also do both within our national self-understanding that imagination, decency, and human dignity have guided us well over two centuries.  There is much in these Executive Orders that violates these very sacred principles.

Check out Catholic Charities Immigration & Refugee Legal  Services for free or low-cost assistance

Call our Catholic Charities NYS Immigration and New Americans Hotline: 800-566-7636

Stay tuned for the upcoming Spanish Translation of this insider’s update in anticipation of the Appeals Court  ruling on the refugee ban in El Diario

Catholic Charities is responding to the needs of our neighbors during the 
COVID-19 pandemic.

For Help Call 888-744-7900