Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal.
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WASHINGTON—Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has clashed with the White House over staffing and other decisions in recent days, people familiar with the matter said, leaving the agency without a second-in-command as it tried to institute a new travel ban during a chaotic weekend at the nation’s airports.
When President Donald Trump selected Mr. Kelly, the pick won broad support from Republicans and Democrats in part because they believed the retired Marine general would be willing to speak up and challenge Mr. Trump.
That tension didn’t take long to materialize. Mr. Kelly hasn’t been able to name the deputy he wants at the agency, people familiar with the matter said, and he fought off attempts by the White House to put Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state known as a hard-liner on immigration, into the position.
Mr. Kelly was also frustrated at not knowing the details of the travel ban earlier, so he could prepare his agency to respond, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Trump signed the executive order that created the ban late Friday afternoon. Mr. Kelly was only informed of the details that day as he was traveling to Washington, even though he had pressed the White House for days to share with him the final language, the people said.
Late Monday, the White House announced Mr. Trump intended to nominate a former agency official from the George W. Bush administration, Elaine Duke, to the deputy post. Earlier, it declined to comment on when Mr. Kelly was briefed on the executive order. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said, “The people that needed to be kept in the loop were kept in the loop.”
A DHS spokesman declined to comment.
The tensions between DHS and the White House have led to uncertainty at the top of an agency charged with keeping Americans safe within U.S. borders. Over the weekend, the agency struggled to respond to demonstrations and scenes of confusion at various airports.
Even though he wasn’t involved in the order’s preparation, Mr. Kelly was peppered with questions about it over the weekend. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) spoke with Mr. Kelly twice at the time to press for details.
The problems at DHS reflect a growing unease among government workers with a series of abrupt policy changes dictated by a close-knit group inside the West Wing of the White House.
On Monday, more than 100 State Department officials signed a draft protest of the executive order that created the travel ban and suspension of the refugee program for Syrian nationals.
The White House brushed off their concerns, saying Mr. Trump has been very transparent with his agenda.
Many administrations experience tension between the White House staff, who are close to the president and loyal to his agenda, and people at the agencies, who must implement policy and deal with the results. But Mr. Trump’s orders have come so quickly, and have upended previous policies in so many ways, that those tensions appear sharper than usual.
Mr. Kelly had hoped to staff DHS in a quasi-military fashion, with a chain of command that included people who have experience in their subject areas and can take responsibility for their portfolios, said people familiar with the process.
The White House tried to persuade Mr. Kelly to accept Mr. Kobach as his deputy secretary, but Mr. Kelly wanted to go a different route, picking someone with a background in homeland security, these people said.
Mr. Kobach is a favorite of some in the White House and is well-regarded by groups favoring a crackdown on immigration. In November, he presented Mr. Trump with a plan to institute “extreme vetting” of people entering the U.S.
That plan included posing “extreme vetting questions” to people considered “high risk” who were entering the country. The proposed questions included queries about their support for “Sharia law, jihad, equality of men and women, [and] the United States Constitution," according to a copy of paperwork Mr. Kobach was photographed holding as he exited from a meeting with Mr. Trump.
Mr. Kobach didn’t respond to a request for comment on Monday.
Rather than Mr. Kobach, Mr. Kelly instead suggested that Christian Marrone be named to the deputy secretary job, according to the people familiar with the matter. Mr. Marrone is former chief of staff to Jeh Johnson, the DHS secretary under President Barack Obama, and also worked for years in the Bush administration, including with Mr. Kelly at the Defense Department.
Mr. Marrone declined to comment.
DHS is the agency that oversees the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), all of which have been affected by the new travel rules. The head of CBP, Mark Morgan, announced last week he was stepping down after just a few months in the top post.
Coca-Cola Co., the world’s largest seller of soft drinks, said it opposes the travel ban issued by President Donald Trump and will assess any effect it has on employees, joining the thin ranks of companies publicly condemning the policy.
“Coca-Cola Co. is resolute in its commitment to diversity, fairness and inclusion, and we do not support this travel ban or any policy that is contrary to our core values and beliefs,” Chief Executive Officer Muhtar Kent said in an e-mailed statement.
The executive order, which Trump issued on Friday, sets new barriers to entry for people from seven predominantly Muslim countries: Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya. The administration also is seeking to suspend the admission of refugees for 120 days.
Coca-Cola joins Starbucks Corp., Nike Inc., Chobani LLC and a swath of technology companies in coming out against the order. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz told his employees that he had a “heavy heart” and vowed to hire 10,000 refugees from around the world. Hamdi Ulukaya, a Turkish immigrant turned billionaire founder of Chobani, said he’s “very concerned,” while Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who hails from India, called the policy “painful.”
Kent has previously advocated for immigration reform to make it easier for skilled immigrants to move to the U.S. He is a first-generation American, born in New York while his father was serving as Turkey’s consul general. The 64-year-old is slated to retire as CEO of Atlanta-based Coca-Cola later this year.
“As a U.S. company that has operations in more than 200 countries and territories, we respect people from all backgrounds and greatly value the diversity of our global system’s more than 700,000 associates,” Kent said in the statement. “We are continuing to assess any potential impact to our employees, and will provide them with appropriate support as needed.”
WASHINGTON — Defiant in the face of an international backlash, President Donald Trump pressed into his second week in office defending his sweeping immigration ban — and then fired a Cabinet head who refused to enforce it.
Acting Attorney General Sally Yates earlier Monday ordered Justice Department lawyers to stop defending the executive order, which temporarily suspends the U.S. refugee program and bars all immigration for citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries for 90 days. By Monday night, she was out.
“The acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States,” the White House press secretary’s office said in a statement.
Trump named Dana Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, to serve in Yates’ place until Sen. Jeff Sessions, his permanent pick for the position, is confirmed by the Senate.
The Yates decision came as Trump pressed into his second week in office defending his sweeping immigration ban. Protests persisted at major airports, and concern mounted from U.S. diplomats and members of his own party.
Trump denied that his order was to blame for weekend chaos at the nation’s airports, instead pointing to computer glitches, demonstrations and even the “fake tears” of Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer.
The president publicly shifted his focus, signing an executive action aimed at cutting regulations for small businesses and teasing his plans to unveil his Supreme Court pick Tuesday night.
But the immigration ban remained at the forefront of his first fortnight in the White House — and officials were pondering more actions moving forward.
According to a draft document obtained by The Associated Press, Trump is considering an executive order that would target some immigrants for deportation if they become dependent on government assistance.
The draft order calls for the identification and removal “as expeditiously as possible” of any foreigner who takes certain kinds of public welfare benefits. Such immigrants have been barred from the U.S. for the better part of a century and they can already be deported. The proposed order appears to signal a Trump administration effort to crack down on such welfare cases.
Another draft order under consideration would make changes to several of the government’s foreign worker visa programs. The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comments on the draft orders.
Trump immigration order prompted predecessor Barack Obama to wade into politics for the first time since leaving office.
A spokesman for the former president said Monday that Obama “fundamentally disagrees” with discrimination that targets people based on their religion. Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis alluded to but did not specifically mention Trump’s order but added that Obama was “heartened” by the civil engagement being seen across the country.
Obama has said he will give Trump room to govern but will speak out if his successor violates basic U.S. values.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump’s order was “about the safety of America,” while the new president played down its impact, saying on Twitter that just 109 people were detained and held for questioning. White House officials have said that was during the first 24 hours after the ban.
But nearly 400 legal permanent residents were delayed upon their arrival back in the United States between the time the travel ban was signed and Sunday evening, according to a federal law enforcement official. All of those people were ultimately allowed back into the country.
The official said one other green card holder is now facing deportation after an extra background check done after the executive order was signed revealed a criminal conviction. Details of that person’s case were not immediately available.
The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to publicly disclose details of the travel ban’s implementation.
Trump’s order, which also halts all refugee admissions for 120 days, does not address homegrown extremists already in America. And the list of countries it applies to — Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen — doesn’t include Saudi Arabia, where most of the Sept. 11 hijackers were from.
Growing numbers of Republican lawmakers expressed concerns about Trump’s action. Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Tim Scott of South Carolina said in a joint statement that “the manner in which these measures were crafted and implemented have greatly contributed to the confusion, anxiety and uncertainty of the last few days.”
Washington state’s attorney general said he would sue Trump, making Washington the first state to announce a legal action against the administration. Democrat Bob Ferguson was one of 16 state attorneys general who released a statement Sunday calling Trump’s action “un-American and unlawful.”
A number of U.S. diplomats also prepared a memo criticizing the order. In a “dissent cable” being drafted for State Department leadership, the diplomats said the ban runs counter to American values and will fuel anti-American sentiment around the world.
The cable originated in the State Department’s Consular Affairs bureau, which handles visas.
Unfazed, Spicer retorted that if “career bureaucrats” have a problem with the order, “they should either get with the program or they can go.”
The president also mocked Schumer, the New York Democrat who grew emotional as he called the ban “un-American.” Said Trump: “I’m going to ask him who was his acting coach.”
Trump blamed an airline glitch for much of the disorder at the nation’s international airports that dominated the weekend’s news. Though a Delta systems outage Sunday night led to departure delays and cancellations of at least 150 flights, the chaos started the day before as protesters packed some of the country’s major airports.
TOP STORY — TRUMP FIRES DEFIANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, our colleague Josh Gerstein has more on the immigration ban fallout here: “President Donald Trump fired the nation's acting attorney general Monday night after she refused to defend an executive order he issued last week restricting immigration in the name of national security. In an act of high political drama just 10 days after taking office, Trump replaced Obama administration appointee Sally Yates with Dana Boente, the U.S. attorney in Alexandria, Va.
“‘The acting attorney general, Sally Yates, has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States. This order was approved as to form and legality by the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel,’ a White House statement said. ‘Ms. Yates is an Obama administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration.’
"Yates could not be reached for comment on Trump's attack, but a person close to her called the criticism from the White House absurd.”
— STATE EMPLOYEES PUSH BACK, TOO, our colleague Nahal Toosi reports on a memo circulating at the State Department against the immigration ban: “State Department employees are trying to rally against President Donald Trump’s new executive order halting the entry of refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries. … In a ‘dissent channel memo’ being circulated within the Foreign Service, the diplomats argue that the executive order is unnecessary and will prove counterproductive by alienating America’s Muslim allies. They also say the order could hurt U.S. businesses, according to one draft shared with POLITICO.”
— WHITE HOUSE SAYS THEY CAN GO, TOO, writes Toosi: “The White House on Monday rebuked State Department employees expressing dissent over Trump's recent executive order on immigration, raising fears the diplomats could face retaliation despite their use of a legally protected channel to voice concerns.”
— DHS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE CLASH: Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has clashed with the White House over staffing and other decisions in recent days, The Wall Street Journal reports. In addition to tensions over Trump’s executive order, Kelly and the White House have been at odds over his deputy at the agency, and late Monday evening the White House removed Daniel Ragsdale as acting head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, replacing him with Thomas Homan.
WASHINGTON — When President Trump signed his executive order on refugee policy, he said the move was to keep terrorists from entering the United States.
In a later Twitter message on Sunday, Mr. Trump said: “Our country needs strong borders and extreme vetting, NOW. Look what is happening all over Europe and, indeed, the world — a horrible mess.”
But the Department of Homeland Security already has several vetting systems that have stopped thousands of people from boarding planes before the can enter the United States.
The agency has hundreds of agents stationed in dozens of countries around the world as the first line of defense to identify and address potential threats at the earliest point possible.
Here’s a look at what is already in place.
The preclearance program is run by the Customs and Border Protection agency. Customs officers are stationed at 16 airports around the world and screen passengers before they board planes to the United States. Customs officers based at foreign airports collect fingerprints and photos and check travel documents before allowing passengers to board a plane traveling to the United States. The officers also conduct inspection interviews with passengers and monitor their behavior before they are allowed to fly.
According to the Government Accountability Office, data from the agency show that it identified and stopped over 22,000 high-risk air travelers in the fiscal year 2015 through these predeparture programs. The customs officers at these locations determined that 10,648 of the approximately 16 million air travelers seeking admission to the United States through such locations were inadmissible. Many of those who were denied entry onto flights bound for the United States were stopped for national security reasons.
Created in 2004, the Immigration Advisory Program is intended to prevent terrorists and high-risk passengers from boarding commercial aircraft to the United States. Unlike the preclearance programs, customs officers in this program are unarmed, plainclothes officers who discreetly help airline and foreign security employees with a review of passenger reservation and ticketing data on flights bound for the United States.
These officers also assist foreign countries with document examination to check for fraud and provide training for airlines and foreign security personnel. The officers make nonbinding “no board” recommendations to air carriers and the host governments to prevent these passengers from boarding flights headed to the United States. Airlines typically adhere to the recommendations, even though they are not required to. These customs officers serve strictly as advisers in the foreign countries where they are. They hold no law enforcement authority.
The Visa Security Program
Immigration and Customs Enforcement arm of Homeland Security operates the Visa Security Program.
Special agents with expertise in immigration law and counterterrorism are stationed at diplomatic posts around the world to help State Department officials prevent ineligible applicants from receiving visas. The special agents research and investigate visa applicants, examine the documents submitted with the visa application, and conduct interviews with applicants.
Over the last two-years, visa security agents reviewed over two million visa applications, helping State Department officials refuse about 8,600 applicants, according to I.C.E. officials. Of these refusals, over 2,200 applicants a year had some known or suspected connection to terrorism or terrorist organizations, the agency said.
Visa waiver restrictions
Last year, the Obama administration announced changes to the visa-waiver program that would make it harder for travelers to enter the United States from Europe if they had dual citizenshipfrom Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria, or had visited one of those countries in the last five years. The administration later added Libya, Somalia, and Yemen.
About 38 countries, mostly in Europe, participate in the visa-waiver program, which allows their citizens to visit the United States without a visa on trips of 90 days or less. Under the changes, visitors meeting the criteria would not be denied entry, but would have to go through the more rigorous visa applicant process.
The changes were in response to legislation passed by Congress that also requires countries to share more information about travelers and authorizes Homeland Security to terminate any country’s participation in the visa-waiver program if it does not share the security data. The legislation also strengthens efforts to detect and prevent passport fraud.
The changes to the visa-waiver program came after the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 130 people and injured 368. Because the attackers were all European citizens, some lawmakers and counterterrorism officials feared that terrorists could exploit the visa-waiver program and travel to the United States to commit similar attacks.
BERKELEY — A California state senator is calling on the White House to release documents related to Melania Trump's immigration, as part of a broader objection to President Donald Trump's immigration policies.
State Sen. Nancy Skinner of Berkeley, standing alongside Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon in the state Capitol last week, made the call as part of a protest against Trump’s executive order calling for limiting funds to “sanctuary cities.”
An AP investigation last November found Melania Trump lacked proper work visas when she was employed as a model after arriving in the U.S. from her native Slovenia more than two decades ago.
“No one in the Trump operation has released any of the documentation to indicate what was the circumstance, or whether she had full legal status,’’ Skinner told POLITICO California in an interview this week. “We only know they had a lawyer look at whatever papers she chose to give."
Skinner noted that Trump promised last August that his wife would hold a press conference on the matter before the election, but that never occurred. Skinner called the president's response "not adequate,’’ particularly in light of policies advocated by Trump that could put hundreds of thousands of undocumented people in California under the threat of deportation.
The White House did not respond to POLITICO's request for comment on the matter.
San Francisco attorney Harmeet Dhillon, a member of the Republican National Committee, called the effort “below the belt” and “a cheap trolling tactic" that is "really beneath the dignity of these California legislators.”
Dhillon called the effort "sexist and harassing,'' saying, “I don’t think that the president’s policy positions make his wife fair game for anything.”
Immigration attorney David Leopold, a former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said that because of Trump's immigration actions, Skinner’s move is "fair game."
He said the AP investigation, as well as previous reporting by POLITICO, have raised serious questions about whether Melania Trump "had been coming into the country to work without the proper work visas, which is fraud, if its true.”
An executive order issued by Trump last week calls for any immigrant who has committed fraud to be an enforcement priority.
Leopold said "it’s only appropriate they make his wife’s file public, so we know that his family also complied with immigration rules."
Sue Caro, the Alameda County GOP chair, was outraged by Skinner's demands. "This is a crap grandstanding posture," she tweeted.
The request came a few days before Trump issued an executive order barring refugees and some legal immigrants from entering the United States, disrupting travel around the world and leading to large-scale protests around the nation.
WASHINGTON — As President Trump signed a sweeping executive order on Friday, shutting the borders to refugees and others from seven largely Muslim countries, the secretary of homeland security was on a White House conference call getting his first full briefing on the global shift in policy.
Gen. John F. Kelly, the secretary of homeland security, had dialed in from a Coast Guard plane as he headed back to Washington from Miami. Along with other top officials, he needed guidance from the White House, which had not asked his department for a legal review of the order.
Halfway into the briefing, someone on the call looked up at a television in his office. “The president is signing the executive order that we’re discussing,” the official said, stunned.
The global confusion that has since erupted is the story of a White House that rushed to enact, with little regard for basic governing, a core campaign promise that Mr. Trump made to his most fervent supporters. In his first week in office, Mr. Trump signed other executive actions with little or no legal review, but his order barring refugees has had the most explosive implications.
Passengers were ejected from flights en route to the United States, customs and border control officials got instructions at 3 a.m. Saturday and some arrived at their posts later that morning still not knowing how to carry out the president’s orders.
“The details of it were not thought through,” said Stephen Heifetz, who served in the Justice and Homeland Security Departments, as well as the Central Intelligence Agency, under the previous three presidents. “It is not surprising there was mass confusion, and I expect the confusion and chaos will continue for some time.”
Stephen K. Bannon, the chief White House strategist, oversaw the writing of the order, which was done by a small White House team, including Stephen Miller, Mr. Trump’s policy chief. But it was first imagined more than a year ago, when Mr. Trump, then a candidate for the Republican nomination, reacted to terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, Calif., by calling for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
In the months that followed, Mr. Trump’s campaign tried to back away from the proposal, which was seen by Democrats as over-the-top campaign rhetoric that would never be reality. Mr. Trump offered few details as the campaign progressed, and as president-elect he promised to protect the country from terrorists with only vague promises of “extreme vetting.”
But Mr. Bannon, who believes in highly restrictive immigration policies and saw barring refugees as vital to shoring up Mr. Trump’s political base, was determined to make it happen. He and a small group made up of the president’s closest advisers began working on the order during the transition so that Mr. Trump could sign it soon after taking office.
A senior administration official said that the order was drafted in cooperation with some immigration experts on Capitol Hill and members of the “beachhead teams” — small groups of political appointees sent by the new White House to be liaisons and begin work at the agencies.
James Jay Carafano, a vice president of the conservative Heritage Foundation and a member of Mr. Trump’s transition team, said that little of that work was shared with career officials at the Homeland Security Department, the State Department or other agencies.
There was “a firewall between the old administration and the incoming one,” Mr. Carafano said.
One reason, he said, is that when the Trump transition team asked pointed questions suggesting new policies to the career officials, those questions were swiftly leaked to the news media, generating negative stories. So the Trump team began to limit the information they discussed with officials from the previous administration.
“Why share it with them?” Mr. Carafano said.
R. Gil Kerlikowske, who served as commissioner of Customs and Border Protection under former President Barack Obama, said that his staff had little communication with Mr. Trump’s transition team, who made no mention of a bar on entry for people from certain countries.
White House officials in the meantime insisted to reporters at a briefing that Mr. Trump’s advisers had been in contact with officials at the State and Homeland Security Departments for “many weeks.”
One official added, “Everyone who needed to know was informed.”
But that apparently did not include members of the president’s own cabinet.
Jim Mattis, the new secretary of defense, did not see a final version of the order until Friday morning, only hours before Mr. Trump arrived to sign it at the Pentagon.
Mr. Mattis, according to administration officials familiar with the deliberations, was not consulted by the White House during the preparation of the order and was not given an opportunity to provide input while the order was being drafted. Last summer, Mr. Mattis sharply criticized Mr. Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim immigration as a move that was “causing us great damage right now, and it’s sending shock waves through the international system.”
Customs and Border Protection officers were also caught unaware.
They contacted several airlines late Friday that were likely to be carrying passengers from the seven countries and “instructed the airlines to offload any passport holders from those countries,” said a state government official who has been briefed on the agency’s actions.
It was not until 3 a.m. on Saturday that customs and border officials received limited written instructions about what to do at airports and border crossings. They also struggled with how to exercise the waiver authority that was included in the executive order, which allowed the homeland security secretary to let some individuals under the ban enter the country case by case.
One customs officer, who declined to be quoted by name, said he was given a limited briefing about what to do as he went to his post on Saturday morning, but even managers seemed unclear. People at the agency were blindsided, he said, and are still trying to figure things out, even as people are being stopped from coming into the United States.
“If the secretary doesn’t know anything, how could we possibly know anything at this level?” the officer said, referring to Mr. Kelly.
At the Citizenship and Immigration Service, staff members were told that the agency should stop work on any application filed by a person from any of the countries listed in the ban. Employees were told that applicants should be interviewed, but that their cases for citizenship, green cards or other immigration documents should be put on pause, pending further guidance.
The timing of the executive order and the lack of advance warning had homeland security officials “flying by the seat of their pants,” to try to put policies in place, one official said.
By Saturday, as the order stranded travelers around the world and its full impact became clear, Reince Priebus, the chief of staff, became increasingly upset about how the program had been rolled out and communicated to the public.
By Sunday morning, Mr. Priebus had to defend the immigration ban on NBC’s “Meet the Press,”, where he insisted that the executive order was rolled out smoothly. He also backpedaled on the policy and said that the executive order’s restrictions on entry to the United States would not apply to legal permanent residents “going forward.”
As White House officials also insisted on Sunday that the order had gone through the usual process of scrutiny and approval by the Office of Legal Counsel, the continuing confusion forced Mr. Kelly to clarify the waiver situation. He issued a statement making clear that lawful permanent residents — those who hold valid green cards — would be granted a waiver to enter the United States unless information suggested that they were a security threat.
But senior White House officials insisted on Sunday night that the executive order would remain in force despite the change, and that they were proud of taking actions that they said would help protect Americans against threats from potential terrorists.
That assertion is likely to do little to calm the public furor, which showed no signs of waning at the beginning of Mr. Trump’s second full week in the Oval Office.
Mr. Carafano said he believed that the substance of Mr. Trump’s executive order was neither radical nor unreasonable. But he said that Mr. Trump’s team could have delayed signing the order until they had better prepared the bureaucracy to carry it out.
He also said the president and his team had not done a good job of communicating to the public the purpose of the executive order.
“If there is a criticism of the administration, and I think there is, I think they have done a rotten job of telling their story,” he said. “It is not like they did not know they were going to do this. To not have a cadre of people out there defending the administration — I mean, really guys, they should have done this.”
President Donald Trump on Sunday defended his executive order restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries as his plan to tighten national security spawned legal challenges, congressional criticism, widespread protests and confusion at airports across the country and around the world.
The order, issued Friday, fulfilled a campaign pledge by Mr. Trump to clamp down on immigration from countries affected by terrorism. He suspended the U.S. refugee program for four months and banned for 90 days entry into the U.S. of nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
What followed was immediate detention of many arrivals at America’s major international airports, and even some deportations back to nations of origin. Late Saturday, a federal judge in Brooklyn, N.Y., issued a temporary injunction that blocked the deportation of those detained, but the judge stopped short of allowing them into the country and didn’t rule on the constitutionality of Mr. Trump’s measures.
Other judicial decisions called into question enforcement of other parts of the order, prompting what is likely to be a long legal review.
Meantime, clearing up one of the points of confusion, the new Department of Homeland Security chief said late Sunday that the order wouldn’t affect holders of so-called green cards, or legal permanent residents, after the agency had said it did.
The result was uneven enforcement. Scientists, athletes, airline crews and immigrants were detained for hours, denied lawyers and in some cases returned to the countries they had left. Across the country, the court order blocking removals hasn’t been honored in a consistent way, according to attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union.
The orders prompted massive protests Saturday and Sunday at airports in New York, Dallas, Atlanta, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Los Angeles and near Washington, D.C., where some travelers remained in detention Sunday afternoon.
At Los Angeles International Airport, large crowds gathered to demand the release of travelers held there, including two grandmothers from Iraq and Iran who refused to board flights back to their home countries, according to immigrant-rights lawyers. Late Sunday afternoon, airport officials in Los Angeles closed the roads around the arrivals area because of the protests.
Attorneys seeking to help potential detainees at Dulles International Airport, near Washington, said it wasn’t clear whether federal customs officials were complying with court orders. They were refusing to give information about any potential passengers detained, the attorneys said. From conversations with families at the airport, the attorneys believed there were about 50 or 60 people potentially being detained under the executive order.
Justin Dillon, a Washington attorney working pro-bono at the airport to represent any potential detainees, said that Customs and Border Patrol officials were refusing to tell attorneys on the ground, as well as four congressmen, whether there were any lawful permanent residents being detained under the executive order.
Sirine Shebaya, another attorney who spent the weekend at Dulles, said that customs officials were in violation of a Virginia judge’s ruling because they were not giving lawful permanent residents access to attorneys.
The Trump executive order states that while the moratorium is in place, the U.S. can admit individuals on a case-by-case basis. It makes no mention of specific religions but says the government would continue to process requests from individuals claiming religious persecution, “provided that the religion is a minority religion in the individual’s country.” That suggests the U.S. would admit Christians from Muslim-majority countries.
Yet at least one Christian family from Syria with approval to immigrate was turned away in Philadelphia over the weekend, family members and local officials said. Ghassan Assali, a Syrian dentist in Allentown, Pa., filed a petition 13 years ago to sponsor two brothers and their families who were living in Damascus. But en route to the airport, he received a call from a U.S. official informing him the family had been barred from entering the country and would be returning to Qatar, their point of departure. “It’s a nightmare,” Mr. Assali said.
While he was running for president late in 2015, Mr. Trump had called for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the U.S., before later moving off that blanket promise.
At least a dozen GOP senators raised some measure of concern by Sunday. Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said in a statement that Mr. Trump’s order “may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security” by alienating U.S. allies in the Muslim world.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, tried to express support for Mr. Trump’s national-security goals while raising questions about his tactics.
“We need to be careful; we don’t have religious tests in this country,” Mr. McConnell said on ABC. The top Senate Republican demurred when asked whether he supported Mr. Trump’s policy, saying that courts would decide “whether or not this has gone too far.”
Mr. Trump responded Sunday afternoon, writing on Twitter that Sens. McCain and Graham were “sadly weak on immigration” and “should focus their energies on ISIS, illegal immigration and border security instead of always looking to start World War III.”
In a statement on Facebook Sunday night, Mr. Trump said the “seven countries named in the Executive Order are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror. To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is not about religion—this is about terror and keeping our country safe.”
Over the weekend, federal judges in three states issued separate rulings that blocked the deportation of those detained at airports. But the rulings differed. The Brooklyn judge issued a nationwide injunction on deportations but stopped short of allowing the travelers into the country and didn’t address the constitutionality of Mr. Trump’s measures. A Boston judge said officials at Logan International Airport could not detain those with valid visas. That prompted lawyers to advise green-card holders to reroute their trips so they enter the U.S. in Boston.
By Sunday night, after nearly two full days of implementation, the extent and limits of the policy—which continued to morph through legal challenges and White House statements—were still unclear.
A senior Homeland Security official said Saturday that in the first 23 hours the order was in effect, 375 people had been detained on arrival in the U.S., prevented from boarding flights at their overseas point of departure or intercepted while en route to the U.S.
Critics, including David Leopold, past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the hasty rollout of the measures had prevented both U.S. authorities and U.S.-bound travelers from adequately preparing.
Beyond new immigrants and refugees, those detained over the weekend also included green-card holders, students and employees of many U.S. companies and universities.
Green-card holder Pouyan Mashayekh, a researcher at a financial firm in New York, landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport at 10 p.m. Friday after a weeklong business trip in London and was met at the gate by polite immigration officials.
He soon joined a group of several other detainees, including several Iraqis and a young Sudanese-American woman. All except him were handcuffed, he said. Lawyers for Mr. Mashayekh, who first came to the U.S. from Iran in 1994 to study for a doctorate in economics, arrived and secured his release at 3 a.m.
“I was unhappy and very tired,” he said. “But you know, I was so numb, so I was very calm.” Mr. Mashayekh eventually returned to his home in a Trump Plaza condominium apartment in Jersey City, N.J.
Immigration lawyers Sunday said border agents at a handful of airports around the country weren’t complying with the order, and that some refugees could still face deportation, including at Los Angeles International Airport and San Francisco International Airport.
Elnaz Ghotbi Ravandi, a doctoral student in biology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, arrived at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport early on Saturday morning to meet her parents and sister flying in from Iran for their first family reunion in more than two years.
Her relatives were detained for over 30 hours at the airport and barred from speaking with Ms. Ravandi. “I was feeling very bad—I felt like I’m not welcome in this country,” she said.
But Sunday afternoon, a security escort brought her to a building nearby the airport, where Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings awaited her with her family members, all holding white bouquets.
Timing was key as the doors to the U.S. shut, then were pried opened again: NBA Milwaukee Bucks forward Thon Maker, once a refugee from Sudan, scored a career high in a game against the Toronto Raptors Friday night in Canada—and made it back across the border into the U.S. without incident just hours after Mr. Trump signed the order.
But a 27-year-old Sudanese internal medical resident at the Cleveland Clinic, Suha Abushamma, was detained on arrival at Kennedy Airport Saturday morning, then put on a plane back to her point of origin in Saudi Arabia 20 minutes before the judge’s emergency ruling was issued, according to a colleague and friend.