Names of Deported Are ... U.S. Won’t Fill in the Blanks

Updated on
  • Government dodging question on who was removed, advocate says
  • Disclosure not needed because people can travel, U.S. says

It’s a seemingly simple question the U.S. government just won’t answer. Who was detained at U.S. immigration or deported in the wake of President Donald Trump’s executive order barring entry to refugees and citizens of seven mostly Muslim countries?

U.S. District Court Judge Carol Bagley Amon ordered the government on Feb. 8 to respond to a request in a lawsuit over the travel ban for a list of people who were detained or removed under the executive order, the countries they were sent to and the flights they were put on.

The government’s answer: zero being detained, as of Feb. 7. Also, no one’s been deported as of Feb. 7, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

That doesn’t answer whether anyone was deported or held because of the ban before that date, immigrants’ lawyers said Friday. Nor, they say, does it answer the question whether the government violated an earlier order not to send anyone already in the U.S. out of the country, as a result of the executive order.

In an emergency hearing on Jan. 28, a day after Trump closed the borders to refugees and citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly ordered the government not to send anyone already in the U.S. and impacted by the order out of the country.

"This is dodging our question because our case says there were people who were removed after the Jan. 28 order and we have documented at least a dozen," said Becca Heller, Director and Co-Founder of the International Refugee Assistance Project. “We want a full list.”

List Not Needed

In documents filed Friday, the U.S. said that Donnelly never ordered it to provide such a list. It also said there’s no need to provide it because an order by a Seattle judge prohibiting enforcement of Trump’s executive order means the individuals can travel freely. Justice Department lawyers added that providing a list would be impractical because millions of people arrive at U.S. borders daily.

“The judge would know if her order was being complied with,” said Karen Tumlin, director of the National Immigration Law Center. “We’re asking for basic information of what happened to these folks.”

The government is trying to say it didn’t deport anyone, but some people may have been coerced into leaving, she said.

“I want to know who had to leave the country against their will.”

Customs and Border Protection said it can’t comment on pending litigation and referred inquiries to the Justice Department. The Justice Department didn’t respond to requests for comment on the court filing.

The American Civil Liberties Union is seeking daily updates to the list of those who were removed or detained under the travel ban, “so we know whether anyone in the future has their rights violated,” said Lee Gelernt, a lawyer with the ACLU.

Immigrants’ lawyers said they’ve compiled the names of at least 11 people who were either removed or had their visas revoked after Donnelly had ordered the practice to stop.

“We’ve done everything we can to document the government’s evasiveness and the abuse of the violation of Judge Donnelly’s original order,” Heller said. "We think they’re hiding the ball."

The case is Darweesh v. Trump, 17-cv-480, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).

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