An encampment of volunteer lawyers waited at Kennedy Airport’s international arrivals terminal Saturday to check whether the Trump administration is obeying a federal judge’s order suspending a nationwide ban on travelers from seven Muslim-majority nations.
Flights began landing Saturday with passengers from one or more of those countries — Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, lawyers’ group spokesman Alan Kaplan said.
But as far as his group knew, those flights contained only U.S. citizens, green-card holders and students — not the travelers such as refugees, tourists and immigrants whose presence in the United States is once again permitted under the judge’s order.
On Saturday night, the Trump administration appealed the executive order’s suspension by the Seattle judge to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which would have the power to restore President Donald Trump’s order or keep it suspended.
Meanwhile, at Terminal 4, nearly two dozen lawyers, translators and other volunteers spent Saturday cramped in the lobby around laptops, preparing fliers, drafting legal documents and communicating with counterparts at other airports.
“If people are coming through easily, they’re not going to contact us,” Kaplan said. “My hope is after a week of being here, is that people are coming through and we’re good.”
Four of the volunteers — one a health care lawyer, another a business lawyer, the third a law professor and the fourth a criminal public defender — stood at the checkpoint where newly admitted passengers exit customs, gazing up at the arrivals board and holding signs in English, Arabic, Urdu and Farsi.
“Did you see anyone get detained on your flight? Did you see anyone being pulled aside for questioning?” read one sign.
Said another: “Free help pro bono.”
Kristina Liburd, the health care lawyer, has been at Kennedy Airport since early Saturday morning.
“We’re seeing whether CBP is going to break from what they’ve been ordered to do,” said Liburd, using the abbreviation for the federal Customs and Border Protection agency. “At this point the EO has been put on ice.”
Trump’s EO — executive order, signed late last month — barred travelers from the seven countries from entering the country.
The administration said it would comply with the order, issued on Friday by a Seattle judge, requiring the government to resume allowing visa-holding passengers to board U.S.-bound flights, although the White House called the order “outrageous.”
“The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” tweeted the president, who said the order is necessary to protect the United States from Islamic militants.
Lindley Hanlon, a City University of New York film professor, stood beneath the arrival board dressed as the Statue of Liberty.
She said she was heartened by the federal judge’s order.
“My new motto is, ‘When they go low, we go to court.’ Only legal procedures will stop these assaults on rights,” said Hanlon, wearing a crown and a turquoise shower curtain she bought at Bed Bath & Beyond.
Pointing to the holes of the curtain where the hooks would go, she said, “They represent that tattered garment shot through by executive orders and other attempts to strip liberties guarded by the American Constitution.”