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Trump’s Muslim ban: Lawyers descend on airports across the US to help free detainees

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The legal profession fights back, as petition set up by Leeds solicitor gains one million signatures

Image via @faiza_n_ali
Image via @faiza_n_ali

Lawyers from across the United States arrived at airports en masse over the weekend to help those who have been detained under President Donald Trump’s new immigration ban.

Trump’s executive order, which he signed at 4.42pm on Friday, effectively shelves the US’ refugee programme for 120 days. Banning all Syrian refugees indefinitely, the order also suspends the entry of nationals from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen for three months.

The move quickly prompted chaotic scenes at several airports across the country, with travellers — many of whom had visas permitting their entry into the US — being detained at customs.

But as the rest of the world watched on, the legal profession came out swinging.

Answering desperate pleas for help from various immigration and legal charities on Twitter, lawyers — cancelling their weekend plans — headed to their nearest airport.

Utilising every spare plug socket they could find, lawyers quickly set up pro bono anti-Trump battle units to help detainees at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK).

Immigration, criminal, civil and corporate specialists — joined by an army of interpreters — operated in shifts.

Elsewhere, chants of “thank you lawyers” echoed around the arrivals terminal of San Francisco International Airport.

And it didn’t take long for their efforts to reap rewards.

Yesterday, US District Judge Ann Donnelly issued a temporary block on Trump’s order, which means immigrants that have already landed in the US with valid visas cannot be deported.

This anti-immigration ban rhetoric is not confined to the US. Closer to home, a number of top lawyers have already expressed their dismay at Trump’s order. Shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti, a barrister at 39 Essex Street, appeared on BBC and ITV breakfast shows this morning, lambasting the “discriminatory” policy.

Additionally, a petition to stop Trump’s state visit to the UK has now surpassed one million signatures. The petition was set up by Graham Guest, who is a solicitor at the Crown Prosecution Service in Leeds.

Despite its popularity and the fact government petitions only require 100,000 signatures to be considered for debate, a spokesperson for 10 Downing Street has told the BBC the government will not be debating it. This is because “America is a huge and important ally. We have to think long term.”

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