January 31, 2017

The Korean American Bar Association of Washington D.C. (“KABA-DC”) condemns in the strongest terms President Donald J. Trump’s executive order banning citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for 90 days (the “Travel Ban”), and suspending the United States’ refugee system for 120 days (the “Refugee Ban”).  The Travel Ban and the Refugee Ban are a flagrant disregard for the founding values of the United States while serving no discernible interest in national security. As members of the bar who swore to uphold the law, and as a bar association primarily composed of recent immigrants and their descendants, as well as U.S. military veterans, KABA-DC find it our duty to denounce these measures, which represent an attack on the rule of law as well as on lawful immigrants.

The Refugee Ban is not simply a violation of humanitarian values; it is also a violation of the treaty obligations of the United States. The United States is a signatory of the United Nations Convention on Refugees, which forbids nations from returning refugees to countries where it is more likely than not that their lives would be in danger on account of their nationality. The United States is also a signatory to the U.N. Convention Against Torture, which forbids nations from returning any person arriving at their border to a country where they will be tortured. There is no exception to these obligations.

Even more troubling is the Travel Ban, which attacks lawful immigrants and valid visa holders. According to CNN, the White House specifically overruled the attorneys from the Department of Homeland Security who had advised that the Travel Ban could not apply to lawful permanent residents, commonly known as green card holders. Following the White House directive, lawful permanent residents were detained for hours in the airport or sent back on the first day of the Travel Ban’s implementation. Although the Trump administration now appears to be backtracking on the Travel Ban’s applicability to lawful permanent residents after having been buffeted by numerous court orders, this administration’s targeted attack against the most protected class among all legal immigrants, not to mention the continued application of the Travel Ban against other types of valid visa holders, is a cause for alarm.

The enforcement of the Travel Ban by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) agents at Washington Dulles International Airport (“Dulles Airport”) has been particularly reprehensible, as they committed the most egregious instance of abuse thus far reported in relation to the Travel Ban. The CBP agents at Dulles Airport detained two young Yemeni brothers, who hold green cards based on their father’s status as a U.S. citizen. When the Yemeni brothers arrived, the CBP agents at Dulles Airport handcuffed them, denied them access to counsel, and made them sign a form surrendering their green cards—before they were put on a plane bound for Ethiopia. At the time of this press release, an unknown number of lawful permanent residents are still being detained at Dulles Airport. Although Judge Leonie Brinkema of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ordered the CBP to allow all lawful permanent residents detained at the airport to speak with a lawyer, the CBP agents at Dulles Airport refused to give attorneys access to detainees, even after five members of Congress and three U.S. Senators  personally visited the airport to ensure that the CBP agents complied with the court order. As a bar association based in Washington D.C., KABA-DC condemns this blatant disregard for the rule of law perpetrated by CBP agents at Dulles Airport, and demands that all lawful permanent residents detained at Dulles Airport be released immediately.

Finally, KABA-DC cautions those who are affected by the Refugee Ban and the Travel Ban to not sign any form without first consulting an attorney. If you are detained, you should demand to speak with an attorney. Practitioners counseling travelers who are being asked to relinquish their permanent residency status or are otherwise impacted by the Refugee Ban or the Travel Ban can visit the website for American Immigration Lawyers Association (www.aila.org) for practice alerts, such as:

  • Green card holders returning to the United States should not automatically surrender their green cards, even if asked to do so by CBP.
  • Form I-407, the form that surrenders the lawful permanent residency status, must be signed voluntarily. Refusing to sign Form I-407 is not a grounds for detention. 
  • A green card holder who refuses to sign Form I-407 must be issued a Notice to Appear (NTA) so that he/she can appear before an immigration judge who makes a final determination about the individual’s status.

As the issues and implementation of the executive order are developing rapidly, those affected are encouraged to consult with an experienced immigration attorney or reach out to one of the many organizations working on the ground, such as:

ACLU: www.aclu.org

CAIR Coalition: www.caircoalition.org

Amnesty International–USA: www.amnestyusa.org 

We wish to remind our fellow members of the bar that lawyers make a difference, and encourage attorneys to volunteer to make that difference. Sign up and make that difference. The sign-up for IRAP Emergency Legal Response Team Survey is available at the link.Contact us for more information and access to resources:  Vice President of Communications for KABA-DC at kabadc2009@gmail.com.