DULLES, Virginia ― The U.S. government must “permit lawyers access to all legal permanent residents being detained at Dulles International Airport” a federal judge in Virginia ordered late Saturday.
But U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at this airport outside Washington, D.C., defied the judge’s order, blocking attorneys from talking to the lawful permanent residents CBP was detaining here.
Border Patrol agents had detained dozens of people who were trying to enter the U.S. from the seven majority-Muslim countries covered by President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration. Trump’s measure, which also froze the U.S. refugee resettlement program and banned admission of Syrian refugees indefinitely, requires even legal permanent residents from the affected countries to seek approval for re-entry on a case-by-case basis.
CBP agents never actually complied with the judge’s order, because they never let the attorneys into the area where the agency was holding the detainees, eight of the attorneys told HuffPost. But by around 1 a.m. on Sunday, some four hours after the order came down, CBP officials had allowed all but one of the people they were holding to enter the United States.
“It is unusual for an agency to deny a court order ― a court order clearly stating that these people need to be provided counsel,” said Claudia Cubas, an attorney with Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition. “We asked several different agency heads to request access to speak to these people and were told ‘no.’”
The order, which was issued by Judge Leonie Brinkema of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, also forbade CBP from deporting any lawful permanent residents from Dulles for seven days. It’s unclear how many people, if any, CBP is still detaining at the airport. But the agency deported at least one person, a Syrian national, from the airport Saturday.
Sirine Shebaya, a Washington-based civil rights attorney, and Ofelia Calderon, an immigration attorney in Fairfax, Virginia, said that CBP was “absolutely” in contempt of the Brinkema’s order.
Rob Robertson, an attorney representing a Syrian woman married to a visa holder, asked an airport official to admit him to the holding area. But the official said CBP was forbidding the airport from allowing the lawyers access to the detainees, Robertson said. His client had a visa to join her husband, a physician who already has a visa to work at a local hospital.
Also on Saturday night, a federal judge in Brooklyn, New York stopped parts of Trump’s executive order from taking effect across the country, effectively precluding the deportation of refugees immigration authorities had previously approved for admission.
Fatima Ebrahimi, an Iranian citizen who has been living in the U.S. for 6 years, emerged from the CBP holding area with her two young children, one of whom was disabled, shortly before midnight. Although she is a legal permanent resident from Bethesda, Maryland, and her two children are U.S. citizens, they were detained for about 5 hours. Ebrahimi was returning from a visit to Tehran where her friends had thrown her a surprise birthday party.
Ebrahimi did not say much about her experience in detention, explaining that she was exhausted. But she mentioned that she observed someone named Ebrahim being put in handcuffs after he protested the detention and said he did not want to return to his home country.
The reception area for international arrivals was packed with some 200 protesters and dozens of lawyers who showed up to help if they were needed. It mirrored protests at airports across the country where activists have gathered to demonstrate against Trump’s executive order restricting immigration, travel and refugee admission.
The protesters cheered every person who walked out of the arrival area, whether they were coming from one of the blacklisted countries or not, chanting “This is what America looks like,” and “Let them see their lawyers.”
“Just banning people, basically because of the color of their skin ― this is going back to the 1960s,” said Mikael Mikael, 31, the son of Ethiopian immigrants and an airport employee living in Frederick, Maryland. “This is not making America great again.”
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