Monday June 26, 2017

'It's absolutely going to be chaos,' lawyer says of new U.S. travel ban ruling

People protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's travel ban in New York City, U.S., Feb. 1, 2017.  A partial version of the ban will be temporarily re-enacted after a Supreme Court order on Monday.

People protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's travel ban in New York City, U.S., Feb. 1, 2017. A partial version of the ban will be temporarily re-enacted after a Supreme Court order on Monday. (Brendan McDermid /Reuters)

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story transcript

Lawyer Mark Doss says he expects more chaos at U.S. airports after the nation's top court gave a temporary green light to President Donald Trump's so-called "travel ban."

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday it will allow a limited version of the ban on travel from six majority-Muslim countries to take effect until the justices can hear full arguments in October

In the meantime, the court said Monday that Trump's ban on visitors from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen can be enforced as long as those visitors lack a "credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States."

A 120-day ban on refugees also is being allowed to take effect on a limited basis.

That leaves a lot of room for interpretation, says Doss, the supervising attorney with International Refugee Assistance Project, a plaintiff in the case.

He spoke with As It Happens guest host Laura Lynch about what will happen next. 

Laura Lynch: I want to ask you about this new "bonafide connection" test that the Supreme Court has established. What does that mean?

Mark Doss: It is not clear.

Some of our plaintiffs have family members who are trying to come from overseas, and so that obviously counts, or if you are a student coming to study at a U.S. institution.

But for us, we believe that bonafide ties to the U.S. means if you are a refugee who is in the U.S. resettlement process and a resettlement agency is going to receive you, that is a tie to an entity here in the United States and you should be admitted.

LL: What about a plane ticket? Would that be a tie?

MD: That's a good question, and that's something that I think will probably be litigated.

It's our opinion that while the Supreme Court opinion is a mixed result for us, it is, if interpreted to the true letter of the order, rather narrow for who it affects, and if the government is interpreting it very broadly and overreached, we believe they'd be in violation of the Supreme Court order, and we would litigate that.

USA-TRUMP/IMMIGRATION

Iranian citizen and U.S green card holder Cyrus Khosravi, centre, greets his brother and two-year-old niece after they were detained for additional screening amid Donald Trump's travel ban. (David Ryder/Reuters)

LL: It's interesting because the minority of judges today said that they would have upheld the travel ban entirely and said that what the court did in its ruling today was, in fact, create a great big open hole for people to start judging what "bonafide" is and it's going to result in a lot of court action and a lot of clogging up of resources. That seems to be what you're saying, is you're going to litigate this?

MD: If the government overreaches and is trying to deny our clients or other travellers from coming to the United States and we believe they have a bonafide connection, we'll absolutely pursue that in court.

LL: We saw chaos the last time the travel ban was introduced at airports in the U.S. and around the world. Is that potentially going to be happening again?

MD: If we're seeing anything like the last time, it's absolutely going to be chaos.

Last time there was no guidance given to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials about who to admit, who not to admit. There was no guidance given to airports and airlines.

If that happens again, it's going to be the same thing where there's ambiguity and there's chaos.

And so we at IRAP have been working around the clock, even before this order came out, to make sure that our network of volunteer attorneys are available at airports and that we will be monitoring the situation very closely to make sure that it's being implemented in a way that's true to the Supreme Court order.

USA-TRUMP/IMMIGRATION

Activists gather at Portland International Airport to protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's executive action travel ban on Jan. 29. (Steve Dipaola/Reuters)

LL: Lower courts had suspended the ban entirely or set injunctions against it. Were you surprised to see the Supreme Court rule differently?

MD: So the Supreme Court actually hasn't decided on the merits yet. They haven't said this ban is constitutional or unconstitutional. So that's what's going to be heard in October.

And we're very confident given the uniform opinion from all the lower courts, from district and both appellate courts, it had a high likelihood of being unconstitutional, that the Supreme Court will find the same thing.

LL: In light of what the Supreme Court decided today and the coming partial reinstatement of the ban, would you advise your clients to go elsewhere? For example, to try to come to Canada instead?

MD:  We've been looking into other countries like Canada, Australia or countries in Europe, which are also taking refugees, and seeing if our clients can be channeled that way.

Because when it comes down to it, these are individuals who are incredibly vulnerable, who have fled from horrible persecution for either their religious beliefs or their political activism or for being LBGTQI [Lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, queer or intersex], and now they're being shut out of the United States. So if another country can accept them, we would be glad for them to get there to safety.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. For more, listen to our conversation with Mark Doss.