Temporary Lifting of Travel Ban Sets Off Rush to Get Into U.S.

Sahar Harati, left, and Motahhare Eslami waiting for their parents to arrive at Logan Airport in Boston on Sunday. (M. Scott Brauer for The New York Times)

At a sweltering refugee camp on the Kenya-Somalia border, dozens of Somalis who had cleared all the final security and medical checks to enter the United States were told to prepare themselves for a flight to a new life.

In Pittsburgh, a medical student from Iran finally got back to school after a chaotic journey that left him sleeping on a chair for four days.

Inside Terminal 4 at Kennedy International Airport in New York, a 6-year-old boy sprinted across the arrivals hall to embrace a family friend who had finally made it back to the United States after being marooned for a week in his home country, Sudan.

With the door open again for travelers and refugees who had been excluded by President Trump’s order on immigration, the race to reach the United States accelerated on Sunday among waves of people fearing the opportunity might be fleeting.

The rush inundated some domestic and international airports, reunited loved ones and friends, and prompted another round of criticism from Mr. Trump that national security was being endangered by court orders that blocked his tight border policy from taking effect. Mr. Trump and his aides have suggested that terrorists and others who wish to do harm to the United States could arrive through normal immigration channels and that the administration needs time to tighten its vetting procedures.

Those travelers now being admitted to the United States from seven predominantly Muslim nations singled out for a temporary ban by Mr. Trump had already been granted visas after screening. Refugees from those countries and elsewhere who were rushing to reach the United States had likewise already been vetted, even more extensively, in a process that involves dozens of checks and can take more than two years.

But it was unclear whether a court order blocking Mr. Trump’s policy from taking effect, issued by a federal judge in Seattle, would remain in place for long, creating a sense of urgency among those trying to reach the United States.

The back and forth had sown confusion, anxiety, fear and disbelief, but the court order created “a temporary window that we wish to take advantage of,” said Leonard Doyle, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, an intergovernmental agency that facilitates refugee resettlement. “Our staff are being told to move like crazy.”

Families and immigration advocacy groups were buoyed twice over the weekend — first when the Seattle judge temporarily blocked the executive order, and again when the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco denied the government’s attempt to gain an emergency stay. But a mood of uncertainty persisted after a week in which thousands of travelers bound for the United States were halted in transit and turned away at airports, and courts across the country issued conflicting rulings over whether and how the executive order should be carried out.

Mr. Trump reacted angrily on Sunday. In a Twitter post, he seemed to give immigration lawyers and advocates reason to fear that the country may not remain open for long to refugees, or to visa holders from the seven nations — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

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SOURCE: NY Times, Caitlin Dickerson and Jeffrey Gettleman

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