There appears to be lots of chaos and confusion in airports around the world after President Donald Trump signed an executive order that effectively bans travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries— Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen—from entering the United States for 30 days. (Update at 4:30 p.m.: Contrary to initial reports, the ban is for 90 days.) It also places a four-month halt to the country’s refugee program. There are now scattered reports that the order is affecting those who already have green cards and visas.
Some travelers are being turned away at airports around the world and not allowed to board flights to the United States despite having valid travel documents. Reuters, for example, hears word from sources at the airport in Cairo that six travelers—five from Iraq and one from Yemen—were forbidden from boarding a flight to the United States even though they had valid visas. An Iraqi journalist living in the United States, Mohammed al-Rawi, wrote on Facebook that his father was prevented from boarding a flight to Los Angeles from Qatar.
There are also instances of people who were already en route to the United States when the order was signed, and they’re being held at airports across the United States and told they needed to return, according to the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. Refugees who were already on their way to the United States when the order was signed were also detained at airports, sparking legal challenges. “I heard a report of somebody who had just returned and had been pulled aside at the airport and was being detained and they were saying the agents don’t know what to do with them,” Ibrahim Hooper, the communications director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told the Guardian.
Confirmed: Visa orders from the listed countries have been denied boarding their flights back to the US. #MuslimBan— Abed A. Ayoub (@aayoub) January 28, 2017
Right after the order was signed, legal experts warned the ban was much more severe than many were expecting and warned it could affect those who are already legally living in the United States, whether with green cards or student or work visas. ProPublica explained:
Since the order’s travel ban applies to all “aliens” — a term that encompasses anyone who isn’t an American citizen — it could bar those with current visas or even green cards from returning to the U.S. from trips abroad, said Stephen Legomsky, a former chief counsel to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services under President Obama.
“It’s extraordinarily cruel,” he said.
The order bans the “entry” of foreigners from those countries and specifically exempts from the ban those who hold certain diplomatic visas.
Not included in the exemption, however, are those who hold long-term temporary visas — such as students or employees — who have the right to live in the United States for years at a time, as well as to travel abroad and back as they please.
That is why the ADC has taken the extraordinary position of telling people who are from the affected countries not to leave the United States lest they not be allowed back. The National Iranian American Council also agreed with that position, writing on its website that the “final order is worse than the draft leaked earlier this week,” recommending that Iranians with green cards “not leave the country until further clarity is achieved.”
Some worried companies are not taking any chances. Google, for example, ordered all of its staff members who were traveling overseas and could be impacted by the measure to return to the United States right away. “It’s painful to see the personal cost of this executive order on our colleagues,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in a memo obtained by Bloomberg News. “We’ve always made our view on immigration issues known publicly and will continue to do so.”