President Trump's temporary travel ban on citizens from the Muslim-majority nations Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen is being challenged by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California.
Today, even as some federal courts have stayed parts of the prohibition, she introduced legislation that would overturn the so-called Muslim ban. "President Trump’s Muslim ban is unnecessary, it’s unconstitutional and it’s un-American — and it should be repealed immediately," Feinstein said on the floor of the Senate today.
Trump's order suspends the entire American refugee program and, "most egregiously, Syrian refugees are banned indefinitely, unless they’re Christian," according to a statement from Feinstein's office. Friday's order sparked a weekend of demonstrations at LAX, where an unknown number of people from those nations were either held, questioned for hours or sent away on return flights.
Marcus F. Benigno, director of communications and media advocacy for the ACLU of Southern California, said an unknown number of arriving foreigners were "coerced" by Department of Homeland Security agents into "withdrawing their visas" and returning home.
ACLU attorneys have represented at least seven people questioned by federal officials at LAX, but the civil liberties group fears that many more aren't even aware they are entitled to legal representation. "Attorneys are there all day monitoring and looking for family members," Benigno said.
Immigration lawyer Stacy Tolchin said that all arrivals held under the ban at LAX today have been released. The detentions have lasted three to five hours, she said.
The Trump administration argued that such a prohibition would have prevented the December 2015 terror attack in San Bernardino. However, it's been widely noted that shooter Syed Rizwan Farook was a U.S.-born citizen; his wife, Tashfeen Malik, was a legal permanent resident of the United States who was born in Pakistan, a country not included in the president's executive order.
Feinstein argued that previous vetting of visitors from the nations covered by the prohibition is more than sufficient. "Visitors fill out visa applications," according to her office. "They submit photographs that run through biometric databases. Their personal information is reviewed, including names, addresses and dates of birth. They’re interviewed at a United States consulate."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
A similar effort to overturn the ban was launched in the House of Representatives today by California Rep. Zoe Lofgren and Michigan Rep. John Conyers, both Democrats.
"I am proud to stand with House Democrats to introduce legislation which will overturn the President’s unconstitutional Muslim ban," Rep. Linda Sanchez of southeast L.A. County said in a statement. "Now we need courageous Republicans to stand up and speak out against these hateful anti-refugee, anti-immigrant executive orders."
Though a number of congressional Republicans, including influential senators Lindsey Graham and Orrin Hatch, oppose the ban, the effort to overturn it in Congress could be an uphill battle because Congress is controlled by the president's party. Feinstein's office notes already that Sen. Chuck Schumer's request that her bill be heard tonight was denied by Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, effectively stalling her effort for now.
-With reporting from City News Service