The Current

U.S. travel ban from seven Muslim-majority countries criticized for its legality

Trump’s executive order to ban travel from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and Libya is raising alarm and confusion among people with ties to those countries, while some legal experts say the policy is unconstitutional.
Demonstrators at Los Angeles International Airport express anger over the travel ban imposed by U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order. (Ted Soqui/Reuters)

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There were peaceful protests at airports across the United States over the weekend — from New York and Chicago, to Dallas and San Francisco — as many Americans turned up to rally against President Donald Trump's executive order to temporarily block people from several predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S.

Iraqi interpreter Hameed Khalid Darweesh was detained temporarily at New York's Kennedy Airport on Saturday.

"I have a special immigration visa in my passport, [for] me and my family," Darweesh  told the New York Times after his release.

"I work with the US government. But when I came here they said 'No.'"

Iraq is one of several countries covered under the ban. The others include: Syria, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and Libya.

The White House says the order is intended to "keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the U.S." Officials say it will not apply to green-card holders, and in Ottawa the Prime Minister's Office says it has received assurances that Canadian dual citizens will not be caught up in the ban.

However, there was widespread confusion over the weekend about who would be affected.  

Demonstrators hold signs at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017, in Atlanta. (Branden Camp/Associated Press)

The Current's host Anna Maria Tremonti spoke with an Iranian-born permanent resident in New York. She's a neuroscientist and researcher at Columbia University who has a green card allowing her to live and work in the U.S., but she didn't want to to use her last name for fear of reprisals for speaking out. She was reluctant to speak publicly at all

"To be honest, I wasn't even sure [I wanted] to talk to you because I thought 'What if I start to cry?' But then I thought, even if I cry I shouldn't be embarrassed. The people who have made me feel this way, they should be embarrassed."

Sara was supposed to come to Toronto this weekend to visit a friend but decided against it for fear of not being able to go home to New York. But even more troubling, she said she is getting married shortly in the U.S., but her parents still live in Iran.

"My 68-year-old father and my 65-year-old mother, they are banned in this country. They won't be with me in my wedding ceremony in March," Sara told Tremonti. She added that with the temporary ban in place until April, she holds little hope her parents will be able to come.

It is really heartbreaking for me. This is pulling apart my family.- Sara, an Iranian-born permanent resident in New York

The travel ban has already sparked lawsuits arguing that it violates people's constitutional rights to due process and equal protection.

On Saturday, a federal judge in New York blocked part of the ban — although the White House is standing by it.

Samer Khalaf is president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, and says his office has been inundated with complaints since the ban was implemented.

"People on the ground are confused. The people who are tasked with enforcing this are confused," Khalaf told Tremonti.

"We're getting a hodgepodge of enforcement. Depending on where you're entering [the U.S.], you will be treated differently. We're getting reports that some airports were letting people in, we're getting other reports that they were sending them back. We're getting other reports they were detaining them."

He said he has heard the President's directive wasn't vetted by Homeland Security, which added to the confusion.

Hundreds of people have gathered in front of the U.S. consulate in Toronto to protest the Trump administration's travel ban. (Linda Ward/CBC)

However, Troy Eid believes Trump's unprecedented step was warranted. He's a former U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado, and Arab-American.

"This is not some list of countries that Mr. Trump made up. Actually. President Obama in two separate findings, determined that there was a specific risk from these countries so I think taking a pause at this point in time is very reasonable to do," Eid told Tremonti.

Eid stressed that the move was not an open-ended ban. It was a 120-day pause while U.S. officials examined potential weaknesses in the vetting process for foreigners entering the United States.

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this post. 

This segment was produced by The Current's Pacinthe Mattar, Shannon Higgins and Ashley Mak.