The U.S. Supreme Court's announcement Monday to let parts of President Trump’s revised travel ban take effect barring foreign nationals from six Muslim-majority countries is expected to have an impact in Los Angeles, just as the original order did in January.
Legal experts and refugee advocates say it's an open question whether the reinstated ban will set off chaos at Los Angeles International Airport as the first order did; some travelers were delayed and questioned for days while others were forced back to their countries.
But the court's decision to partially reinstate the ban will affect the plans of at least some travelers, immigrants and refugees from the six countries — Syria, Libya, Iran, Sudan, Yemen and Somalia. The decision allows officials to block entry of the affected travelers for 90 days and refugees for 120 days.
The court will hear full arguments in the legal challenges to the travel ban in October.
In reinstating part of the president's order on Monday, the Supreme Court said those without an established, bona fide tie to a person, school, workplace, university or other entity in the United States could be temporarily barred from the country. It will take effect as early as Thursday.
The revised ban does not apply to legal permanent residents and those with current valid visas, but legal experts said it will apply to those who have yet to apply for entry to the U.S.
In January, President Trump signed the first executive order ordering the travel ban. He argued it was necessary for national security while the administration reviews procedures for allowing travelers from the Muslim-dominant countries into the U.S.
Several legal challenges to the ban were filed, and Trump signed a revised travel ban in March. But officials in Washington and Hawaii pressed ahead with challenges, arguing the ban even in its revised form is unconstitutional and discriminates against Muslims.
Lower courts have placed the travel ban on hold.
Whether there will be a repeat of the confusion at the airport with reinstatement of the travel ban will depend on how it is interpreted and enforced.
As some legal experts are defining it, the court's decision could clear a fairly broad category of people to enter the country.
“Many people from these six countries who want to enter the United States do have a relationship with an individual or an entity,” said Bill Hing, an immigration law professor at the University of San Francisco.
So with the exception of, say, travelers who don’t know anyone in the U.S., most travelers will have a qualifying connection here.
But some immigrant advocates are concerned that a refugee’s relationship with U.S. resettlement group might be questioned at the airport.
“Families, oftentimes, when they come as refugees, they don’t have any documents besides their refugee status paperwork," said Jose Serrano with World Relief, a resettlement agency in Garden Grove.
"If an officer uses their discretion as to not allow them to enter because they belong to these particular countries, we don’t know how that is going to be handled at customs or as they try to enter the United States,” he said.
On first blush, a refugee who has a relationship with a resettlement agency should be allowed into the country under the court’s language. However, Serrano says he’s worried that refugee families could be detained at the airports because they won’t know how to prove their relationship with their resettlement agency.
Others who work with immigrants say they’re worried that people arriving on tourist visas to visit family may be held up if they cannot prove they’re visiting a relative.
Legal experts believe people with valid visas should not encounter problems if they’re already set to arrive. But the concerns surround how the rules will be applied on the ground.
Some of the same lawyers advising travelers back in January at LAX are meeting to figure out how to respond to the court's latest decision. Several legal service groups and private pro bono attorneys are organizing to help out at both LAX and San Francisco International Airport.