While courts hear Trump travel ban, some say damage already done

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As U.S. courts consider the fate of President Trump's revised travel ban, families and those helping to bring relatives and asylum seekers to the country say they've already seen negative repercussions from it.

Trump's executive order aims to temporarily limit travel from six predominantly Muslim countries. The travel ban was quickly challenged after it was imposed in January, now several lawsuits are making their way through the court system.

On Monday, a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals judges' panel heard oral arguments in Hawaii's challenge to the travel ban on grounds that it discriminates based on religion. A federal judge in Hawaii blocked the travel ban in March, later extending his order as a preliminary injunction.

Before a three-judge panel in San Francisco, Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall defended the Trump administration's policy on travel, saying that "the order on its face doesn’t have anything to do with religion." 

Neal Katyal, an attorney for the state of Hawaii, argued that the order is clearly discriminatory against Muslims. Trump's original order barred travel from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen. A revised version of Trump's order dropped Iraq from the list.

There was no immediate ruling in the appeal, and ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court may render the final decision on whether the travel ban stands.

Meanwhile, some of those affected in Southern California say no matter how the courts rule, the ban has already had a chilling effect. 

Anaheim immigration attorney Akram Abusharar said some of his clients from affected countries aren't so interested in coming to the United States anymore. They're uncertain about what future they’d have here, he said.

“I have about maybe five clients who have already withdrawn their applications for asylum, and they went to Canada," he said. "A lot of people already left the United States. A lot of people already canceled their plans to come to the United States.”

For Abusharar, who represents Syrian families as well as Iraqis, "the damage already has been done.”

Iranian immigrant Omid Ghassemi of Santa Monica said he was not optimistic that in this climate, a family member who is waiting to come from Iran would make it here.

Ghassemi and his family spent a long night at LAX in January, shortly after Trump's initial travel ban took effect. They waited as his brother-in-law, who was coming to the U.S. as a new immigrant after years living in Europe, was detained at the airport for hours. 

He made it into the country. But a second brother-in-law is now waiting in Iran on the outcome of his green card application.

“I don’t think he will get here," Ghassemi said. "I’m telling the family, don’t even hold your breath.”

He said both relatives wanted to come here to join their elderly mother, who is in failing health.

Trump has said the ban places limits on travelers and refugees from countries that have harbored terrorists. The administration says the move is temporary while the federal government assesses the ways it reviews those entering the country.

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