WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump’s executive order targeting Muslims and refugees led to chaos in the hours after he signed it, as refugees and immigrants arrived at U.S. airports only to be detained or told they couldn’t enter the country and businesses had to scramble to adjust to the new policy.
The order, which Trump signed Friday afternoon, bans Syrian refugee resettlement in the U.S. indefinitely, shuts down the entire refugee program for 120 days and bars all immigrants and visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. for at least 90 days.
Coming in the late hours of Friday, and with little apparent consultation with other agencies and groups prior to its publication, the order created havoc and confusion among those tasked with overseeing entry into the country.
In the hours after the president signed his executive order, government authorities detained two Iraqis at New York’s Kennedy Airport, The New York Times reported. One of the men, Hameed Khalid Darweesh, worked for the U.S. government for 10 years as an interpreter. He was detained upon landing at Kennedy on Friday night, but his wife and children were let through, Brandon Friedman, a former colleague of Darweesh’s, told The Huffington Post.
“I don’t know why that’s the case,” Friedman said. “I haven’t been able to talk to him directly.”
The other detained man, Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, was coming to the country to join his child and wife, who had worked for a U.S. government contractor, The Washington Post reported.
Lawyers for the two men told CNN they have filed a lawsuit against the president and the government over their detention. The action in federal court seeks a writ of habeas corpus — an order declaring their detention illegal — and the certification of a class action covering any immigrants and refugees denied admission at ports of entry across the country, according to the complaint filed in New York.
Google, meanwhile, told traveling staff members to come back to the U.S., BBC News reported.
And refugee organizations began notifying volunteers that the families they planned to help were no longer on their way. Alisa Wartick, 36, said she and a group of 38 people in her neighborhood had co-sponsored a Syrian refugee family through the organization Refugee One in Chicago.
The family ― a mother, father and 16-month-old daughter ― was supposed to arrive on Monday to join the woman’s parents and siblings. The co-sponsorship group had already furnished their apartment, and met the family via FaceTIme so they could see their new home, which they now may never see again.
“Just imagining raising a child in a refugee camp environment and then being told you could see your family again, you could be reunited with your mom and your daughter’s grandma and being told ‘No, sorry, you’re three days too late for that’ ― I can’t imagine what that’s like,” Wartick said.
Church World Service, one of the organizations that handles refugee resettlement, had been planning to welcome 212 refugees next week, 164 of them joining family members already in the United States, according to a spokeswoman. Those 212 refugees are no longer expected to arrive.
Though Trump, on the campaign trail, had pledged to stop refugees from certain Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, there was some skepticism that he would actually follow through on the proposal. Business groups had warned against it, as did religious organizations, including some with traditionally conservative political leanings.
Moreover, congressional Republicans spoke out over the summer against any policy that would bar people from entering the United States based on their religion. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was one of those critics. But on Friday evening, he offered a statement of support for Trump’s proposal.
The ripple effects of the executive order make clear the difficulty in taking a blunt campaign promise and applying it to real-world governance, with seemingly unforeseen outcomes and immediate, frightening disruption in people’s lives. People took to Twitter to share the uncertainty now surrounding their Syrian colleagues and friends.