SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (CBS SF) — Lawyers from four civil rights groups are on hand at San Francisco International Airport Thursday to help people with questions or problems concerning the partial implementation of President Donald Trump’s travel ban.
“It’s a very confusing situation,” said Zahra Billoo, a lawyer who is executive director of the San Francisco Bay Area branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, based in Santa Clara.
“We are here to monitor the implementation of what we call Muslim Ban 2.0 and to offer legal advice to anyone who may be affected or have questions,” Billoo said.
The four groups are CAIR and the San Francisco-based Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus, OneJustice and Arab Resource and Organizing Center.
Billoo said about a half dozen lawyers and an equal number of law clerks and students are staffing a station at the airport’s international terminal.
The ban goes into effect at 5 p.m. Pacific time Thursday, according to U.S. State Department guidance issued Wednesday evening, but Billoo said the lawyers arrived at 7 a.m. because they expected possible confusion among customs officers about the implementation. Other lawyers will rotate into the station during the day, she said.
So far, the attorneys have dealt mainly with questions from people at the airport who are awaiting visitors from overseas, Billoo said.
The partial implementation of Trump’s March 6 executive order was allowed by the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday.
The ban restricts entry by visitors from six Middle Eastern and African countries whose population is more than 90 percent Muslim. The nations are Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
It bars entry for 90 days by people from those countries who are not permanent legal U.S. residents and who do not already have a visa. The purpose of the 90-day pause is to enable the Trump administration to review vetting procedures.
As limited by the Supreme Court, the restriction does not apply to visitors who have a close family relationship with a person in the U.S. or a relationship with a U.S. entity such as a university or an employer.
The limited ban will be in effect while the high court considers the government’s appeal of rulings blocking the ban by two federal appeals courts, including the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments sometime this fall and is expected to issue a decision by the end of June 2018.
The high court did not define close family members, but the State Department Wednesday night and the Department of Homeland Security Thursday issued guidelines defining the term.
Close family relationships that are eligible to enter the U.S. include parents, parents-in-law, spouses, children, adult sons and daughters, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law and siblings, including those in step relationships.
But grandparents, grandchildren, fiancés, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-in law, sisters-in-law and other extended-family members are excluded under the guidelines.
“Part of our concern is that there is so much confusion. We didn’t know until last night that grandparents and fiancés are not included,” Billoo said.
The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that it “expects business as usual at our ports of entry upon implementation of the executive order today.”
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers are trained and prepared to professionally process, in accordance with the laws of the United States, persons with valid visas who present themselves for entry. We expect no disruptions to service,” the agency said.
The limited ban also bars all refugees for 120 days except for those with a close relationship with a person or institution in the U.S.
CAIR civil rights attorney Brittney Rezaei said, “Once again Muslim immigrants and refugees fleeing violence are being told that they will be treated differently because of their religion. We must not allow these policies to be normalized.”
Trump’s March 6 executive order was a narrowed-down version of a Jan. 27 order that was blocked by the 9th Circuit. The original ban applied to seven countries, including Iraq, and did not exempt legal permanent U.S. residents.