HOUSTON – American Civil Liberties Union senior staffers are aggressively monitoring the Trump administration’s stated intention of reenacting a form of the travel ban recently struck down in federal court as unconstitutional in charting the organization’s next course of action in the ongoing saga.  

In the meantime, the ACLU of Texas, Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative, Tahirih Justice Center, Vinson & Elkins LLP and Houston Volunteer Lawyers have announced the launch of a hotline to help local citizens better understand recent changes to immigration laws, including a series of Trump-enacted executive orders.

“There are many nonprofit organizations in the Houston region and around the state that can provide free or low-cost legal services for immigrants,” Kate Vickery, executive director of the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative said in a press release made available to The Record. “This hotline will help people access these organizations and get high quality legal assistance.”

The ACLU was one of several groups to file suit in opposition to the executive actions taken by the new Republican president that prohibited travelers from seven mostly Muslim nations from entering the U.S.

After it was first struck down by a federal court judge, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals later refused to reinstate the ban, effectively blocking the deportation of all immigrant people stranded in U.S. airports across the country after the ban went into effect.

“The appeals court’s refusal to reinstate the Muslim ban is correct,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, in a press release. “The government’s erratic and chaotic attempts to enforce this unconstitutional ban have taken a tremendous toll on innocent individuals, our country’s values, and our standing in the world. We will keep fighting this un-American executive order until it is permanently dismantled.”

The ACLU’s initial suit was filed on behalf of two Iraqi men who were detained at airports while traveling on business despite being in possession of immigrant visa.

Hameed Khalid Darweesh had worked for the federal government for at least seven years as an electrical engineer, including under a former Obama administration official who once commanded a platoon during the invasion of Iraq.

The second detainee, Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, was traveling to Houston to see his wife and young son, whom he had not seen in three years.

“President Trump's war on equality is already taking a terrible human toll,” Jawat stated. “This ban cannot be allowed to continue.”

But the Trump administration’s plan seems to call for just that.

CNN reports in the coming days the administration is expected to roll out an executive order the president is adamant will "protect our people" while withstanding all legal challenges by not impacting green card holders. As news of the plan has leaked throughout the media, Homeland Security Chief John Kelly confirmed the president’s intentions, insisting that the new order will be a “tighter, more streamlined version of the first executive order.”

Meanwhile, Trump recently boasted that the order is crafted in such a way that it will be able to ward off any and every legal challenge. Issued just a week into his presidency, Trump's original order targeted individuals from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

Rather the new order excludes green card holders or not, ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt suspects that there will be plenty of other ammunition the organization can use to mount more legal challenges.

“If the only real change is to exempt green card holders, than the legal challenges will continue full force,” Gelernt told CNN, who has already filed suit on the organizations behalf in New York.

Trump’s original actions were so controversial, even some of those in his own party publicly took exception with his monolithic approach to things.

"You have an extreme vetting proposal that didn't get the vetting it should have had," Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio recently told CNN's Jake Tapper on a recent "State of the Union." "As the result, in the implementation, we've seen some problems."

 

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