Washington: US President Trumps executive order closing the nations borders to refugees was put into immediate effect as those who were in the air on the way to the country were stopped and detained at airports, a newspaper reported.
The detentions prompted legal challenges as lawyers representing two Iraqi refugees held at Kennedy Airport filed a writ of habeas corpus early Saturday in New York seeking to have their clients released, the New York Times reported.
At the same time, they filed a motion for class certification, in an effort to represent all refugees and immigrants who they said were being unlawfully detained at ports of entry, said the report.
Trump’s order, which suspends entry of all refugees to the US for 120 days, created a legal limbo for individuals on the way to the United States and panic for families who were awaiting their arrival.
His order also stops the admission of refugees from Syria indefinitely, and it bars entry into the US for 90 days from seven predominantly Muslim countries linked to concerns about terrorism. Those countries are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.
According to the report, it was unclear how many refugees and immigrants were being held nationwide in the aftermath of the executive order.
The complaints were filed by a prominent group, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the International Refugee Assistance Project at the Urban Justice Centre, the National Immigration Law Centre, Yale Law School’s Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organisation and the firm Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton.
The lawyers, according to the New York Times, said that one of the Iraqis detained at Kennedy Airport, Hameed Khalid Darweesh, had worked on behalf of the US government in Iraq for 10 years.
The other, Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, was coming to the US to join his wife, who had worked for a US contractor, and young son, the lawyers said.
They said both men were detained at the airport Friday night after arriving on separate flights.
The attorneys said they were not allowed to meet their clients, and there were tense moments as they tried to reach them.
The executive order, which Trump said was part of an extreme vetting plan to keep out “radical Islamic terrorists,” also established a religious test for refugees from Muslim nations: He ordered that Christians and others from minority religions be granted priority over Muslims.
The US admitted a record number of 38,901 Muslim refugees in 2016, according to a study conducted by non-partisan Pew Research Center based in Washington. But nearly the same number of Christians, 37,521 were also admitted, it said,
At the same time, many Christian groups that resettle refugees in the US decried the persecution of their brethren overseas, but said the country should not give favour to fellow Christians or bar Muslims, CNN reported.
“We would resist that strongly,” said Scott Arbeiter, president of World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals and one of nine agencies that partner with the federal government to resettle refugees.
“Some of the most vulnerable people in the world right now are Muslims. If we say no Muslim should be let in, we are denying the humanity and dignity of people made in the image of God.”