United States President Donald Trump signs an executive order on Friday that he said would impose tighter vetting to prevent foreign terrorists from entering the U.S.
By ROBERT WALL and SUSAN CAREY
Updated January 28, 2017 3:16 p.m. ET
Some U.S.-bound passengers have been prevented from boarding flights and several people were detained on arrival in New York in the wake of President Donald Trump’s order to ban entry for people from certain Muslim-majority countries.
The American Civil Liberties Union on Saturday said it filed a lawsuit in a U.S. District Court against the ban on behalf of two Iraqi men, Hameed Khalid Darweesh and Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, who were denied entry to the U.S. late Friday and detained at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport despite having visas issued before the order was signed. The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
Eleven people have been held because of Mr. Trump’s immigration order after arriving at JFK Airport, an airport official said midday Saturday.
Elsewhere, officials at Cairo airport in Egypt said seven U.S.-bound migrants—six from Iraq and one from Yemen—had been stopped from boarding an EgyptAir flight to New York, the Associated Press reported.
The officials said the seven migrants, escorted by officials from the United Nations refugee agency, were stopped from boarding the plane after authorities in Cairo contacted their counterparts in the U.S. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorized to brief the media.
Mr. Trump on Friday signed an executive order that suspends entry into the U.S. of anyone from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for at least 90 days. The rule affects the seven Muslim-majority nations with a total population of 130 million.
Authorities reckon that the ban covers about 150 to 175 air travelers a day among all airlines arriving in the U.S.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, runs the National Targeting Center that monitors airline travelers. The new ban isn’t yet automated in the CPB system, so the agency is literally calling airlines to warn them of people with tickets planning to board flights from the seven nations. The goal is to stop those nationals at the origin airport, or a transfer airport, to keep them from getting to the U.S. and being stuck, said a person familiar with the situation.
The new rule potentially has other ramifications. Canadian residents holding Iranian passports, for instance, would be denied access to the U.S. unless they also hold Canadian passport or have the proper paperwork, such as a green card.
United Continental Holdings Inc. said Saturday that it “is aware of the directive and is working with the federal government to comply.”
Airlines for America, the U.S. airline industry’s leading trade association, referred questions about President Trump’s executive order the Homeland Security and CBP.
One U.S. airline industry official estimated that the top three U.S. carriers, all of which fly globally and have foreign partners, normally handle about two dozen fliers a day from the targeted nations, and all via flight connections.
Some European airports use CBP contractors to check for visas and stay on top of no-fly lists and other air-passenger limitations. But the numbers are small and in some major European airports no such contractors are in place, said the industry official.
The president said the order, which also indefinitely bans Syrian refugees from entering the U.S. and puts a four-month suspension on the broader refugee program, would keep “radical Islamic terrorists” out of the U.S.
The order prompted airlines to scramble to react to the new policy.
Dutch carrier KLM said on Saturday it denied boarding to 7 U.S.-bound passengers because of the new restrictions.
There are no direct commercial flights between the U.S. and any of the countries subject to the new immigration restrictions, meaning it partly falls on governments and airlines across Europe and the Middle East to implement the rules.
Qatar Airways on Saturday alerted passengers citing an Immigration Advisory Notice from CBP. It said nationals from the seven named countries traveling to the U.S. must have either a green card or one of a number of specific visas, including those related to government officials, the United Nations, international organizations or NATO.
Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways advised an Iranian passenger via Facebook to contact embassy officials.
Emirates Airline, the largest carrier by international traffic, said only a very small number of its passengers were affected on the first day after the ban took effect. Emirates is one of the major carriers linking passengers via its Dubai hub between the Middle East and the U.S.
The airlines said “where applicable, we are assisting the affected travelers with their flight re-bookings. Passengers are responsible for ensuring they have the required documents for their travel.”
However, only a small number of trans-Atlantic passengers will be affected by the new rules, according to one representative of a European airline.
British Airways, one of Europe’s largest carriers on the trans-Atlantic market, and Deutsche Lufthansa AG said they would comply with the new U.S. rules. Airlines have to check the status of U.S. bound passengers and risk fines if they transport people not eligible to enter the country.
British Airways said it would offer affected customers a refund for their travel to the U.S. or the chance to rebook their flight.
It is still too early to judge the impact of the new U.S. policy, Lufthansa said.
Airlines said they were working with those passengers affected on changes to their tickets.
Mr. Trump’s immigration directive received swift condemnation from human-rights and other advocacy organizations, as well as many Democrats and some business figures.
In a statement Friday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti came out strongly against the ban. “One of America’s defining legacies in the world is the welcoming of people who arrive on our shores to escape the horrors of war, oppression and violent persecution,” he said. President Trump’s executive order “unfairly targets refugees -- many of them families with young children -- whose lives many depend on the compassion and generosity of the United States.”
The mayor said there is “no evidence” the travel ban will improve national security
Detroit Metropolitan Airport, serving a city with a large Arab-American community, declined to comment, directing inquiries to the CBP.
Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai criticized the order in an email to staff late Friday, saying the U.S. ban on foreign nationals from seven countries affects at least 187 Google employees.
—Nicolas Parasie and Andrew Tangel contributed to this article.
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