Law school grads and students offer help to travellers denied entry to U.S.

An Iranian PhD student from Montreal is among those stuck at an airport and barred from flying to the United States due to U.S. President Donald Trump's travel ban.

'This is why I went to law school,' says McGill law student and volunteer Sydney Warshaw

An Iranian PhD student studying advanced mathematics at the University of Quebec in Montreal is among those removed from passenger lists as a result of U.S. President Donald Trump's travel ban. (Mike Hillman/CBC)

Recent law school graduates and students from McGill University are volunteering their services at Montreal's airport to get an Iranian PhD student into the United States.

The man, an Iranian citizen, is among those stuck at an airport and barred from flying to the United States because of U.S. President Donald Trump's travel ban.

CBC News has agreed not to publish the man's name, owing to fear of repercussions if he eventually gets to the U.S.

On Monday morning he said he was removed from the passenger list on a Porter Airlines flight to Boston through Toronto. 

The man has been in Canada for almost four years and studies advanced mathematics at the University of Quebec in Montreal. He has an American student visa for a four-month research project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston.

"I was in the lounge prior to my departure and I was notified that due to the recent executive order I couldn't fly the Porter airline, but the lady wasn't sure," he said, adding that he showed the agent a letter from MIT that included a clarification of the original executive order pertaining to student visas.

After being turned away by Porter Airlines, the man said he tried to buy a ticket from United Airlines, to no avail. But the ticket agent referred him to Brodie Noga, a recent McGill law school grad who is among several volunteering to help people in legal limbo at airports across Canada.

This is why I went to law school. I wanted to have concrete skills to help people.- Sydney Warshaw , McGill law student

"He found us because we had spoken to United Airlines earlier in the day and they knew we were in the airport ready and willing to give information to anyone who hadn't been allowed to board. And he was directed to find us out at a café," Noga told CBC News from the departures lounge at the Trudeau airport.

"We've been putting him in contact with a pro bono lawyer in the U.S. along with other legal resources that are available to him in Canada."

So far though, lawyers on both sides of the border haven't been able to get him on a flight. The student said MIT is now submitting legal documents to support his case to enter the United States. 

"I couldn't see [this situation] two weeks ago because this is a very drastic change," the man said.

"But I received some warnings since last Thursday. MIT sent to me an email sharing some concerns. And they encouraged me to reschedule my flight, but I had some commitments this weekend. I wanted to participate in a conference which ended on Sunday afternoon."

Trump's order imposes a 90-day ban on entry to the United States for citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — all predominantly Muslim countries. The order also halts the processing of all Syrian refugees for the next 120 days.

Activists gather outside the White House to protest Trump's executive actions on immigration in Washington, D.C. Sunday. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

Sydney Warshaw is in her final year at McGill law school and is co-ordinating efforts in Montreal. When Warshaw saw what the American Civil Liberties Union was doing for people at U.S. airports over the weekend, she immediately got to work.

"This is why I went to law school. I wanted to have concrete skills to help people," she said.

Noga echoed that feeling.

"It's atrocious what is happening in the U.S. in terms of people being banned essentially for the basis of their religion. Just being able to offer whatever services, whatever help we can is… just what we need to do as lawyers and law students," he said.

Warshaw and Noga are loosely affiliated with volunteers across Canada from several other groups, including the Canadian and British Columbia Civil Liberties Associations, Amnesty International, the National Council of Canadian Muslims and a number of prominent private Canadian law firms.

As for the student, he said he's thankful for all the information and support he's received so far.

"I look forward to practice every right that I have, to follow the legal procedure but there's [nothing] I can do as an individual, just follow the rules."