Trump Travel Ban Deal Allows Reapplication To Enter US

Share us on: By Stewart Bishop

Law360, New York (August 31, 2017, 7:04 PM EDT) -- President Donald Trump's administration has agreed to contact travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries who were excluded from the U.S. due to his first executive travel ban order and advise them of their right to reapply for admission under the terms of a settlement announced on Thursday.

The deal brings an end to a proposed class action filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the International Refugee Assistance Project and other groups in response to Trump's Jan. 27 order which prohibited nationals from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The suit led to a the issuance of a nationwide injunction on Jan. 28 by U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly, barring the deportation of people with valid visas who may have been sent back under Trump's order.

During a conference in Brooklyn federal court before U.S. Magistrate Lois Bloom, Muneer Ahmad of the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization of Yale Law School described the terms of the settlement, under which travelers excluded as a result of the first ban will be contacted via email and informed that they can reapply for entry to the U.S. without prejudice as to their prior exclusions.

The emails — in English, Arabic and Farsi — will also include a list of free legal service providers to assist the affected travelers in the application process, Ahmad said. The deal also requires the U.S. Department of Justice to coordinate the processing of new applications for any affected travelers which are identified by the rights groups' lawyers for the next three months.

Judge Bloom praised the "exemplary" attorneys on both sides of the dispute for coming to a deal.

"This dispute has been resolved in a way that I believe dignifies all of us, without the rancor that we see so much of these days," the judge said.

The named plaintiffs in the class action were two Iraqi men, Hameed Khalid Darweesh and Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, who had been detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, but eventually gained admission to the U.S.

In a statement, Darweesh said it means a lot to him to be in America and he's glad that the lawsuit is over.

"Me and my family are safe; my kids go to school; we can now live a normal life. I suffered back home, but I have my rights now. I'm a human," Darweesh said.

After the January executive order was blocked in court, the president signed a revised version on March 6, that seeks to block nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the U.S. for 90 days. However, federal courts in Maryland and Hawaii subsequently blocked the ban, spurring appeals in the Ninth and Fourth circuits.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed in June to take up the case and It granted the government's request to reinstate part of the order, holding that people from the six affected countries who do not have a close family relationship tying them to the U.S. or another "bona fide" connection may not gain entry.

Meanwhile, on Monday a three-judge panel for the Ninth Circuit heard arguments in the dispute between Hawaii and the federal government over the types of relationships that can avoid the ban, with the judges grilling the government on its definition of a "close familial relationship."

Also at issue in the appeal is whether the lower court was wrong to find that, under the high court's decision, a "bona fide" connection to a U.S. entity is established for refugees for whom the U.S. Department of State has gotten an "assurance" from a U.S. resettlement group.

The Trump administration hasn’t had great luck on the travel ban issue before. Back in June, the Ninth Circuit kept in place a block on President Trump’s revised travel ban, before the Supreme Court agreed to take up the case.

Detractors say both versions of the travel curbs are illegal and unconstitutional executive orders that have the effect of targeting Muslims.

An attorney for the ACLU, Lee Gelernt, said while the government dragged its feet for far too long, it has finally agreed to do the right thing and provide those excluded under the first ban with proper notice of their right to come to the U.S.

"While this closes one chapter in our challenge to Trump's efforts to institute his unconstitutional ban, we continue our legal fight against Muslim ban 2.0 at the Supreme Court in October," Gelernt said.

In a statement, the DOJ said while the instant case has been moot since March, when Trump rescinded the original travel ban and issued a new one that does not restrict the entry of Iraqi nationals, “the U.S. government has elected to settle this case on favorable terms.”

According to data released by the government in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the plaintiffs, approximately 1900 travelers were detained in from Jan. 27 to February, with roughly 140 people excluded. However, the advocates for the plaintiffs believe the actual number of exclusions may be higher.