The Trump Administration’s travel ban on refugees and others is creating confusion…and heartbreak for families in Central New York and across the nation. The executive order will impact everyone from new refugees to those who’ve lived in the U.S. on visas for decades.
Long-time Syracuse immigration attorney Sharon Ames says the administration’s “drastic measure” will be felt here in Syracuse. The resettlement of 220 refugees already approved to move to Syracuse has been halted. Ames says she spoke with a man who knew of an affected Syrian family.
"A mother who had left her children, fleeing the war, and resettled in another country before being allowed to come to the United States," Ames said. "To be able to bring her children and be here together...that now is going to be impossible for her."
Ames says those holding temporary or permanent visas seeking entry from one of seven majority-Muslim countries could also be detained for at least 90 days.
"These are people who could have lived her for 20 years with a green card, and for one reason or another, have not become U.S. citizens," Ames said. "It affects students, research scholars, people we want here working for us."
Ames says they might be subject to secondary inspection and allowed to return…or denied entry altogether.
She says the travel ban can also mean life or death for those with special immigrant visas.
"These are the interpreters and people who worked for the United States military helping our soldiers in Iraq who got special visas to come here because now they're in danger of being killed due to their collaboration with the United States."
The Trump Administration says it is actively seeking to identify those visa holders from Iraq to exclude them from extra scrutiny.
Ames says the executive action also affects those on already on American soil.
"It prevents people here who have green cards from traveling," Ames said. "If you have a death in your family in you're home country or elsewhere and you're from one of those seven countries, you're going to think twice about traveling outside the country because you may not get back in."
About 50 Syracuse University students have been instructed not to travel because they’re from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, or Yemen. Ames says lawyers are teaming up nationwide to legally address the executive order.
VOLUNTEER LAWYERS OFFER ADVICE, LEGAL AID
Those with the Volunteer Lawyers Project of Onondaga County has responded to the executive order by offering "Know Your Rights" presentations. Immigration Pro Bono Coordinator Herve Comeau says Muslims and others are understandably fearful.
"We have clients who are afraid of speaking out, of the retribution that might follow. We are advising non-citizens from the seven countries listed in the order not to travel outside of the country," Comeau said in a statement. "We're asking them to make plans for the care of their children in the eventuality that they are barred from re-entering the country or detained."
Comeau says he, himself, is a first generation immigrant. While he's disheartened by the administration's actions, he's proud of the city's response and the legal community's support.
OnLVP is a non-profit legal aid organization that provides free legal information, assistance, and representation in civil legal matters to low-income people. Their number is 471-3409.