Lawyers to visa, green card holders: Don't travel abroad
Nearly two dozen lawyers and interpreters have been camped out in the arrival area of O'Hare Airport's international terminal since President Donald Trump banned refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries.
"Families of detained people, help is here," their signs say in Arabic and English.
The legal workload has slowed, probably because people now know about the ban and aren't flying to the U.S. unless they're certain they'll be allowed to enter.
But people with visas and green cards still have a lot of questions about what the order means for them.
We spoke with several lawyers to get answers. Here's what they said.
Q. If I have a green card and I'm from a country that's not on the banned list, like Poland, India or Mexico, should I travel abroad?
A. Most lawyers we interviewed advised against it unless it's an urgent family matter. Because the situation is fluid, it's possible the travel ban could change or expand to other countries with little notice.
"It's a risk," said immigration attorney Ginger Devaney, of Chicago. "That list of countries could change at any moment."
Q. What should I do if I'm detained at an airport?
A. Don't sign anything, especially not an I-407 form. Signing that form will surrender your green card and permanent resident status, says immigration attorney Ausaf Farooqi, of the Farooqi & Husain Law Office in Oakbrook Terrace. Other than the customs declaration form (asking if you're bringing in cash, produce, etc.), you should not have to sign anything upon entering the U.S.
If detained, you should continually ask to call an attorney, even though you're only legally entitled to one if you're being arrested. Decline to answer questions about religion or politics, like, "What do you think of the president?" or "Do you believe in Sharia (Islamic religious) law?"
"They can ask about your passport, the nature and purpose of your travel, and items you're bringing in and out. If they start getting into discriminatory questions, they can start accusing you of things," Farooqi said.
Q. What can I do in advance to avoid problems?
A. Bring the name and phone number of an immigration attorney you could call if you need help. As soon as you land, text someone while you're still on the plane -- either someone who's waiting for you at the airport or someone in your destination city -- and let that person know you're there. If you don't show up in an hour or two, the contact will know something's wrong and can seek help and advice.
"If we don't know, we can't help them," said attorney Ellen Marks.
Q. I'm an American citizen of Middle Eastern descent. Should I have any problems?
A. Technically, no. But Farooqi said it's likely there will be more racial profiling now, similar to what travelers encountered after 9/11. People of Middle Eastern descent "are already used to that level of profiling," he said. "It's likely to intensify."
Q. If I ask for legal assistance at O'Hare, how much will that cost me?
A. Nothing. All services are being provided free by volunteer lawyers, or law firms who are paying for lawyers to work there pro bono.