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At LAX, legal advocates set up even before new travel ban takes effect

Patrick Fodell, training coordinator at OneJustice, left, and Talia Inlender, a senior staff attorney with Public Counsel, prepare to answer questions from travelers and relatives in the wake of the release of President Trump's latest travel ban at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX on Monday, March 6, 2017.
Patrick Fodell, training coordinator at OneJustice, left, and Talia Inlender, a senior staff attorney with Public Counsel, prepare to answer questions from travelers and relatives in the wake of the release of President Trump's latest travel ban at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX on Monday, March 6, 2017.
Josie Huang/KPCC

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President Trump's executive order restricting travel from select Muslim-majority countries won't take effect until March 16, but public interest attorneys nonetheless set up a table at the Los Angeles International Airport on Monday to answer questions about the directive.

Talia Inlender, a senior staff attorney with Public Counsel, joined a couple of other immigration law experts at the Tom Bradley International Terminal arrivals area.

Aside from offering free legal help, she said, lawyers wanted to send a message to the Trump administration "that we’re here, that we’re watching the situation, that we’re not going anywhere."

By late afternoon, there were none of the protests at LAX that had marked the rollout of the president's original travel ban. That order caused chaos as travelers were detained for hours and a few were sent back to their countries of origin. Federal judges stopped the original ban's enforcement after legal challenges raised questions about whether it targeted Muslims.

The revised travel ban issued Monday aims to address the legal issues raised in the courts.

Its major provisions will suspend entry for travelers from six countries — Iran, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen — for 90 days, and temporarily stop admissions by refugees for 120 days. The suspensions will give officials time to review national security and vetting procedures, the president's order states. 

Iraq was dropped from the list of countries affected under the revised ban because it has agreed to tighter security reviews and has helped in the fight against terrorism, according to the executive order. 

Nonetheless, at least one Iraqi traveler may have faced a longer-than-average wait upon arriving at LAX on Monday. Hoshyar Al-barzangi said he had been waiting for his father-in-law for four hours after his flight from Dubai had touched down. 

Inlender told Al-barzangi, an Uber driver from San Diego, that his father-in-law, a green card holder, may have been delayed because he had been overseas for nearly three months.

Al-barzangi said he was comforted knowing that Iraq had been removed from the list of affected countries. He hoped the other countries would be taken off as well.

"It's not easy to get a visa to the United States," Al-barzangi said. "They check everything, they vet everything, fingerprints. It takes a long time. And when they give it to you, you should come — no problem."

Unlike the previous travel ban, the latest order makes clear that it does not apply to those with legal permanent residency status like green card holders and those with existing, valid visas. Previously, uncertainty over whether the ban applied to such travelers added to the confusion at airports across the country, including at LAX.

Inlender said lawyers wanted to monitor the situation at the airport and answer questions from travelers and their relatives, even though the revised ban doesn't take effect for another 10 days.

"I think family members often have questions about loved ones coming in future weeks, or their own future travel," Inlender said. "Will they actually be able to make plans to visit family or to travel for business?"

The groups OneJustice and the Immigration Defense Law Center were also present to offer help.

Legal challenges to the new order are expected, with the American Civil Liberties Union pledging to challenge the new order as it continues its litigation against the travel ban, AP reported.

“The Trump administration has conceded that its original Muslim ban was indefensible. Unfortunately, it has replaced it with a scaled-back version that shares the same fatal flaws," said Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, in a statement on the group's website.

John Miano, a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors restricting immigration, said that he considered reactions to the revised order "overblown."

"This action here is only a temporary thing," Miano said. "It calls for a time-out for a short period of time to study things."

He expects immigration advocacy groups to file challenges in the run-up to the new order taking effect. "But I would expect now with more of Trump’s team in the Justice Department in place, they'll be better prepared to deal with it," he said.

Refugee resettlement organizations criticized the revised order is no better than the first one.

Glen Peterson, who directs Southern California operations for World Relief in Garden Grove, said the order still slashes the number of refugees that will be allowed in the country, from about 110,000 this year to 50,000.

"This is the lowest resettlement goal for many years, in our memory," Peterson said. 

Martin Zogg, who works with refugees at the International Rescue Committee, said the Trump administration "made changes around the edges (of the revised ban) but it remains a heartless order that targets the most vetted and vulnerable people."