The first full day of a limited travel ban ordered by President Donald Trump to block entry of people from six majority-Muslim nations and suspend refugee programs was uneventful Friday at major United States airports, even as the policy was likely to undergo more scrutiny in the courts.
When Trump first unveiled his executive order in late January, agencies rushed to comply and many travelers were detained, questioned and even sent back, causing chaos at airports and inciting protests against what many decried as a discriminatory “Muslim ban.”
Reports Friday from immigrant and refugee advocates at Kennedy Airport and other domestic airports indicated there were no disruptions. The restrictions, which the administration said are needed to address security concerns, took effect Thursday at 8 p.m. EDT.
“It has been sort of quiet and business as usual, which is not necessarily a bad thing at this point,” said Christian Pezuela Hennessy, stationed at Kennedy on Friday as a rapid response consultant with the New York Immigration Coalition, a Manhattan-based advocacy network. “It’s nothing like what we saw last time around in February.”
The Department of Homeland Security, in a posting Thursday, said that while the ban is in place, agencies are working with law enforcement and the intelligence community “to identify enhanced vetting procedures to ensure program integrity and national security.”
The restrictions followed a U.S. Supreme Court decision Monday to allow a limited version of the ban, keeping out for 90 days visa-holders from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and suspending entry for 120 days of refugees who don’t have “any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” The justices will hear the case after beginning the court’s new term in October.
The temporary ban stems from Trump’s revised executive order, issued March 6, that sought to stop all travelers from those countries, but was halted by injunctions in federal courts as various plaintiffs challenged its constitutionality.
The current ban already is being challenged in Hawaii, where the state filed an emergency motion late Thursday asking a federal judge to clarify who is a “bona fide” relative. Critics of the policy have complained that the administration’s definition is too restrictive.
The State Department said new visa applicants from the affected countries, to be eligible for entry, must prove a relationship with a parent, spouse, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sibling, fiancé or fiancée in the U.S. — excluding such relatives as grandparents, aunts and uncles.
Critics called the policy “the Grandma Ban.”
A senior administration official said Thursday that the family criteria were based on “legal guidance in the Immigration and Nationality Act and what was in the court decision.”
Even the limited ban leaves communities under a cloud of suspicion, said Debbie Almontaser, a Yemeni-American advocate in New York City.
In a sense, she said, “it’s no different than the original ban,” because it still is specific to Muslim countries.
“This undermines American values of welcoming people from all different parts of the world and giving them the opportunity to achieve the American Dream,” she said. “They are turning people away from some of the most impoverished, underserved and marginalized communities that desperately need a shelter.”
Back at Kennedy, immigration coalition members were at Terminal 4, keeping an eye on arrivals from the Middle East and northeast Africa, including connections through Europe.
One worker held up a sign that travelers could see as they walked out of the customs and baggage area, alerting them to the availability of legal assistance if they needed it.
“As expected, this really is not playing out at the airport,” said Camille Mackler, legal initiatives director for the coalition, adding that she believes the impact will be felt at U.S. consulates abroad.
With the AP