All Eyes on LAX on the Eve of the Travel Ban Redux

Protesters jammed LAX's Tom Bradley International Terminal as news of the January travel ban spread.
Protesters jammed LAX's Tom Bradley International Terminal as news of the January travel ban spread.
Ted Soqui

Masih Fouladi was hiking near Yorba Linda on Monday morning when he got the news: The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether President Donald Trump’s ban on travelers from six majority-Muslim countries is lawful. The court also ruled Monday to allow portions of the ban that had been blocked by two lower courts.

Fouladi is a lawyer and legal advocate for the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, one of the first groups to sue the president over the travel ban in January.

The high court's decision came on a day when CAIR's office was closed; Fouladi and co-workers had the day off for Eid al-Fitr, the Islamic holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, a holy period when Muslims fast and focus on charitable giving. But Fouladi's holiday was interrupted by messages to his phone that began early and were unrelenting. After 20 minutes of the hike, he turned back.

“We can’t catch a break under this administration,” he says.

Within the hour, Fouladi was in a round of conference calls with legal experts, working on a community advisory (“This Morning’s Court Decision on #MuslimBan and What It Means”) and producing a Facebook Live segment with Zahra Billoo, an attorney for CAIR in the Bay Area, discussing the ban.

“Today CAIR offices and many Muslim organizations across the country are actually closed because we wanted to give staff a break for Eid,” Billoo says in the video. “But this morning many of us woke up to news from the United States Supreme Court.”

The Supreme Court’s decision partly lifts the injunction blocking Trump’s travel ban, months ahead of oral arguments before the court in October. The new, limited ban will not affect anyone traveling to the United States with “a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” Legal experts interpret that to mean a traveler visiting a close relative living in the country or with a visa to work or attend university.

Travelers from the six countries covered by the ban — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — who do not meet the criteria of a "bona fide relationship" will be subject to a 90-day travel restriction, which the Trump administration has argued is necessary to review the visa policies of foreign governments.

Opponents say the travel restrictions amount to an unconstitutional “Muslim ban” that is based on religious intolerance, racial animosity and discrimination. “The Muslim ban at its core is discriminatory in its intent and at odds with everything American values stand for,” Fouladi says.

A spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection declined to comment. The Department of Homeland Security released a statement on Monday saying the Supreme Court decision allows the agency to "largely implement" the president's executive order.

The travel ban is expected to go into effect 72 hours after the injunctions were lifted. Jennie Pasquarella, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California, says a team of legal advocates will be monitoring airport arrivals on Thursday morning. "The devil will be in the details as far as how the airport authorities interpret and implement this," Pasquarella says.

Immigrants from countries on the travel ban list protested at LAX in late January.
Immigrants from countries on the travel ban list protested at LAX in late January.
Ted Soqui

When the travel ban was announced in January, people began gathering by the thousands at LAX's Tom Bradley International Terminal to protest the measure and oppose the detentions, joined by dozens of legal volunteers who offered their services to the detained and their families.

Farida Chehata, an immigration attorney for CAIR in Los Angeles, says her main concern with the language in the ruling is the broad discretion it gives to Customs and Border Patrol and the State Department to determine who qualifies to enter the country and who doesn’t.

“We’re going to have to monitor on a case-by-case basis how CBP and the State Department apply this ruling to visa applicants to see if there are any kind of legal challenges that arise,” Chehata says.

“The question for many people on the refugee side is if a ‘bona fide relationship’ with an entity like a refugee resettlement agency will qualify,” says Talia Inlender, an immigration lawyer who works for the nonprofit Public Council.

Glen Peterson, director of the refugee resettlement agency World Relief’s office in Garden Grove, says the group has received about 200 refugees from Afghanistan, Syria, Iran and Iraq in the past year.  “For most of these people, if they’re not able to come to the U.S., they can be stuck in a refugee camp in Jordan or the regular population in Turkey,” he says.

He says he's hopeful they'll be allowed into America.

“My understanding is most people applying already have family ties that are in the U.S.,” Peterson says.

When the ban was announced in January, people began gathering by the thousands at LAX's Tom Bradley International Terminal to protest the measure.
When the ban was announced in January, people began gathering by the thousands at LAX's Tom Bradley International Terminal to protest the measure.
Ted Soqui

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