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Immigrant, refugee advocates to monitor travel ban at Kennedy

People arrive at New York City's Kennedy Airport

People arrive at New York City's Kennedy Airport on June 26, 2017, the day the U.S. Supreme Court decided that a limited version of President Donald Trump's travel ban would be allowed to take effect. Temporary restrictions on all refugees and on foreign nationals from six Muslim-majority countries are to begin Thursday, June 29. Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

Immigrant and refugee advocates say they are ready to monitor and respond if travelers from six Muslim-majority countries face undue restrictions against entry into the United States Thursday after a temporary, partial ban based on President Donald Trump’s executive order goes into effect.

Advocates rallied by the hundreds in late January at Kennedy Airport and other ports of entry across the country when Trump issued his first order blocking immigrants, visitors and refugees. The sudden policy rollout left passengers stranded as many were questioned, others were prevented from boarding flights and some were turned away.

Both the president’s original Jan. 27 order and a revised March 6 order were challenged in the federal courts. The U.S. Supreme Court this week said it would review the case stemming from the March order after the court begins its next term in October.

In the meantime, the court allowed restrictions on foreign nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days and refugees’ travel for 120 days. The court limited enforcement “to foreign nationals who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

While advocacy groups for immigrants and refugees and legal experts believe the high court’s edict will lessen the impact of Trump’s order, there is some uncertainty about its interpretation.

“For now, the way the executive order itself is written and the Supreme Court decision reads, we are not clear how much of the impact will be felt at the airport here versus airports and consulates abroad, so we will be on the ground and checking,” said Camille Mackler, legal initiatives director with the New York Immigration Coalition. In January, the Manhattan-based advocacy network mobilized protesters and organized attorneys to assist travelers.

A small team of advocates and lawyers will go to Kennedy on Thursday, but no protests are planned, Mackler said. Allied groups are coordinating similar efforts throughout the U.S. and abroad.

“We don’t expect it to be as large-scale as the first order, in large part because this [executive] order is narrowly tailored and the Supreme Court stay is even more narrow,” she said.

The initial January ban sought to exclude Iraqis as well. The administration’s revised order in March came after legal challenges and outcry from protesters who joined Muslim community leaders in denouncing the ban as discriminating against them.

As far as the community is concerned, the limited order also is offensive, said Nayyar Imam, president of the Long Island Muslim Alliance, based in Suffolk County.

“This is just a witch hunt, and the Trump administration just wants to please the group of anti-Muslim people who are against Islam,” Imam said Wednesday. “It’s a very small minority that will be affected by this ban, but anyway it’s very un-American.”

The Department of Homeland Security on Monday said the order’s implementation “will be done professionally, with clear and sufficient public notice, particularly to potentially affected travelers, and in coordination with partners in the travel industry.”

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