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Concern over Trump travel ban increases calls to immigration lawyers

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When President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Jan. 27 that placed a temporary travel ban impacting nationals of seven Muslim-majority nations seeking entry into the U.S., his action created a backlash from protesters that flooded into airports denouncing the move. The day after the executive order, Bridgeport-based immigration attorney Alex Meyerovich witnessed the commotion up-close at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

“I was at JFK on Saturday picking someone up and it looked like a war zone,” he said, noting a large presence of law enforcement officers brandishing weapons that came out to hold back the demonstrators.

Meyerovich, who is a managing partner at the M.C. Law Group, quickly found himself fielding endless inquiries on what the president’s action would mean to immigrants affected by the decision.

“I was getting calls throughout the weekend from concerned people who were asking, ‘What is going to happen to us?’” he said. “These were nationals from Syria and Yemen that had family members waiting for their green-card process to be finalized. I had some crying people.”

Trump’s executive order placed a 90-day ban on the entry of travelers from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia. The order created confusion on who could be turned away. Two days after the order was issued, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said green-card holders from the seven nations covered by the executive order would not be prohibited from entering the country.

Douglas R. Penn, a Stamford-based business and immigration attorney, believed that Trump did not act outside of his authority with this action. “Does he have the power to do that?” he asked. “Yes. The amount of power the government has at the border is pretty much unlimited. And if you are not in the country, your odds of being able to challenge this are pretty limited.”

Penn pointed out that the executive order also included a 120-day ban on refugees from entering the U.S. and an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees. The latter was particularly difficult for the local Syrian community, Penn said. “People in the process of bringing a family here or upgrading their status are probably affected. This is an indefinite freeze and they may be stuck in limbo.”

But another Stamford-based attorney, John C. LaCava, challenged the president’s actions. “You just can’t deport somebody because you say they have to be deported,” he said, noting that the initial confusion on green-card holders resulted in a violation of their due process. “If that security can be tossed aside with a stroke of a pen, it makes permanent residents feel a little less stable.”

The Trump Administration hinted at a possible expansion of the travel ban, but to date that has not occurred. LaCava said that expanding the ban to other Muslim-majority nations could affect wealthy investors who are interested in bringing their financial strength to this country.

“What if someone seeking to invest $1 million gets a green card and suddenly his country is on a list that says that green cards are not good?” he said.

LaCava noted an increased level of inquiries by immigrants from a wide variety of countries regarding the citizenship process have been growing since the election. But local business leaders have yet to see any specific effects tied to this presidential policy.

“I have not heard anything regarding impact on businesses,” said Jack Condlin, president and CEO of the Stamford Chamber of Commerce.

“We have not had time to discuss the travel ban with our members, but we will be discussing it in the future,” said Mickey Herbert, president and CEO of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council. “We will, of course, continue to monitor what impact this travel ban may have on businesses in the Bridgeport region.”

Among the region’s universities, the executive order raised different levels of concern. University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst called for the creation of a committee that would determine how students and faculty would be affected by the travel ban while University of Bridgeport President Neil Salonen issued a statement reaffirming the value that international students brought to his school. John J. Petillo, president of Sacred Heart University, acknowledged that “some of our international students are directly impacted by the order,” but he went further in condemning the executive order.

“This order goes against everything that Sacred Heart University stands for,” Petillo said in a press release. “We are Catholic in tradition and spirit. We uphold the God-given freedom and dignity of every human person. This is true both inside and outside the classroom. It is a living tradition we must uphold and a hallmark of who we are.”

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