The document was released by the American Civil Liberties Union just as the civil liberties organization and others settled their legal case against the government over the president’s first attempt to bar citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.
That directive has since been revised and replaced, and a subsequent order that tried to bar citizens of six Muslim-majority countries is still facing new legal challenges. But the ACLU and others had continued to pursue the lawsuit over the first travel ban in hopes they could help people enter the United States who were improperly blocked.
As it stands now, the Trump administration is allowed to impose a travel ban – but one that is significantly less onerous than what the president had first envisioned, and has been further watered down by court rulings.
The Supreme Court in June ruled that the ban on travelers from six Muslim-majority countries and all refugees could take effect, but the government could not bar those with a “bona fide” connection to the United States, such as having family members here, or a job or a place at a U.S. school.
That state of affairs is temporary. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in October. Meanwhile, the parties are still hammering out details in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which heard arguments earlier this week on which relatives and refugees could properly be kept out of the United States.
The ACLU’s lawsuit stemmed not from the executive order now at issue, but Trump’s first travel ban, which caused chaos at airports nationwide as people were detained and sometimes deported after they landed in the country.
Although Trump would later revoke and revise that order, the ACLU pressed to get a complete accounting of those affected.
Government officials have provided an evolving account of the impact of the first travel ban before it was halted by the court system.
The Monday after the ban was implemented, Trump declared on Twitter, “Only 109 people out of 325,000 were detained and held for questioning.” Later, the Justice Department turned over to the ACLU a list of 746 names of people held, in any capacity, because of the executive order during a 26 1/2 hour stretch from Jan. 28 to Jan. 29.
A Department of Homeland Security official said at the time that the difference in counts was likely attributable to officials taking different snapshots in time.
The latest list, which says it is for the period stretching from Jan. 27 to Feb. 4, denotes more than 1,900 people who faced secondary screening. Dozens of those, according to the list, seem to have left the United States, either voluntarily or because the government forced them to.
A Justice Department referred questions on the figure to the Department of Homeland Security. A spokesman there said he was researching the matter.
To settle the ACLU’s lawsuit, the government agreed to email those who had been turned away, providing them with an explanation of their rights and a list of free legal services. Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s national Immigrants’ Rights Project, said the agreement was an important end to the litigation that first halted Trump’s travel ban – although it was an unnecessarily hard fought battle.
“This is one of those situations where the government should have just done it,” Gelernt said. “It didn’t need months and months of wrangling in court.”
Gelernt said the number of people held – even if briefly – was notable, calling into question the figures the government had previously offered. And Gelernt said the ACLU would still press for more documents, because they were not convinced what they had was complete.
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