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'The Problem Is Not Fixed': Lawyers Continue To Rally At O'Hare As Dozens Held On Monday

By Stephen Gossett in News on Jan 31, 2017 3:53PM

Photo: Tyler LaRiviere

“Chaos. Moment after moment, hour after hour.”

That was the scene at O’Hare International Airport over the weekend as described by immigration attorney Mike Jarecki, Vice Chair of American Immigration Lawyers Association Chicago Chapter. He’s one of hundreds of lawyers who have volunteered at the airport at points since Trump’s executive order—which bars entry for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries—resulted in widespread confusion and prompted massive protests.

Things have calmed down to some degree at the airport since Department of Homeland Security John Kelly stated that allowing entry of lawful permanent residents is “in the national interest.” But large numbers of travelers are still being extendedly detained, and lawyers continue to fill Terminal Five to offer assistance.

Between 40 and 50 people were held by airport officials on Monday, about 15 of whom were not allowed entry by Customs and Border Patrol, according to the Tribune. Green-card holders from the seven barred countries were still facing exceptional degrees of scrutiny from Customs and Border Patrol.

The firing of former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who told the Justice Department not to defend Trump’s order on grounds that it could be unconstitutional, also throws a potential wrench in the works of legal challenges.

“The problem is not fixed,” said Jarecki. “The crisis continues if green card holders are still being held, and if green card holders abroad are not being allowed on flights if they have passports from one of the seven countries.”

Jarecki said arrivals who have travel visas appear to be detained on a “case-by-case” basis. “It will be affected by how long a person was abroad and why.” But individualized assessments should not be based on “where they were born,” he said.

Whatever turn enforcement takes, Chicago lawyers undoubtedly remain committed to their initial mission as broader implications become clearer. "I initially signed up to help because there were people in need and I had skills to help,” Sonali Maulik, Associate at Kirkland& Ellis LLP, told Chicagoist by email. “I've since considered the fact that I took an oath of office to support the Constitution. (Whether the Executive Order is unconstitutional has not yet been legally determined but a number of judicial orders suggest a strong likelihood that it is).”

A team of attorneys was back on the scene early Tuesday morning, and a signup sheet for interested lawyers shows shifts planned for at least another week.

The order has caused anxiety among flyers and would-be travelers in Chicago who presumably should not be affected by Trump’s order, also. Jarecki, who assisted Saturday and Sunday at O’Hare and helped remotely on Monday, said he’s received several calls from foreign-born people uncertain about whether they should travel. “There’s a lot of fear.”