Imagine leaving the country to visit your grandparents only to be turned away at the U.S. border when you tried to return home to your wife and children. This is the kind of story that has been playing out with some local Chicagoans since Trump immigration policy went into effect.
On January 27, 2017, the Trump administration enacted a 90-day travel ban on visitors from seven primarily Muslim nations in the Middle East, a 120-day ban on refugees, and barred refugees from Syria indefinitely. The order was signed and released abruptly, and immigration and customs officials struggled to comply with little clarification or guidance from the White House.
As a result, legal visa holders were detained and turned away as chaos ensued at our nation’s airports.
While these stories played out on the national news, Trump immigration policy has also negatively affected the people of our city and the suburbs surrounding downtown. This article shares the local effect of this abrupt shift in national immigration policy. We will also discuss what legal recourse visa cardholders currently have in the face of great uncertainty brought about by the Trump immigration policy.
Advocate Physician Stuck at the Border
The Tribune reported in early February on a lawsuit filed by Dr. Amer Al Homssi, an internal medicine resident at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. Dr. Al Homssi is a legal resident of Syria who came to study medicine under what was presumably an H-1B visa.
The H-1B visa allows non-U.S. citizens to complete their medical training here legally. After completing residency, H-1B visa holders could potentially apply for a visa allowing them to serve in medically underserved regions, providing a vital resource to poor and rural communities that desperately need physicians.
Whether Dr. Al Homssi would have gone on to serve in this way remains unclear; he was one of the thousands denied access to the country by customs officials. His attorney has filed a suit and told the Tribune, “This is a doctor who has patients here in Chicago. He’s the epitome of why these visas exist, to encourage people from foreign countries to come here and study and learn.”
Dr. Al Homssi had traveled home to the Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, to be married. Five days after his wedding he attempted to return to the U.S. Customs officials seized his passport and wrote: "Cancelled E.O. 59447v.8" referring to the Trump immigration policy. The officers told Dr. Al Homssi that it might be 90 days before he can return. In the meantime, he runs the risk of having to drop out of the residency program if he cannot return to his duties.
It should be carefully reiterated that Dr. Al Homssi was here on a legal visa, traveling on a legal visa, and has a clean criminal record.
Dr. Al Homssi’s suit, filed in federal court, was one of two legal actions taken in the first week after Trump immigration policy went into effect. An Iranian citizen and legal permanent resident of the United States, who lives in Chicago with his wife and three children, filed the first suit. He was returning to the city for the birth of his first grandchild but was refused a ticket by the airline due to Trump immigration policy.
Artist-Wife of American Citizen Stranded
On February 1, the Chicago Tribune shared the story of Sarvin Haghighi, a resident of the West Loop, and a legal green card holder stuck in Australia after the Trump immigration ban took effect. Her husband was reported “frantic” as he worked with an attorney to get her home. Haghighi has lived in the United States since 2013 having emigrated from Iran during a particularly violent time in the country’s history. She had received her green card in 2015 and was traveling under an Iranian passport.
She and her husband were vacationing in Melbourne when Trump immigration policy took effect. Her husband, Andy Culley, had flown back early and immediately began working with attorneys to get Haghighi home. In the meantime, many individual lawsuits were filed stopping the deportation of legal visa holders in New York, Massachusetts, and Virginia. The last report on Haghighi stated she was attempting a flight to these cities where injunctions had already been filed.
Chaos at O’Hare International Airport
When the news broke that foreigners were being detained at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, thousands flocked to terminal three to protest. More than fifty people were detained between January 28 and January 30, including several with green cards, according to USA Today. Some of those detained or blocked from entry included a Syrian woman who was visiting her mother in the hospital.
New Trump immigration policy appeared initially to affect permanent U.S. residents with green cards, and customs grilled dozens across the country. On Saturday, January 28, the Department of Homeland Security stated the ban included green card holders. But by Sunday, January 29, Trump chief of staff Reince Priebus said the order was not meant to include green card holders. According to the Tribune, green card carriers were still being interrogated on Monday, January 30.
According to WGNTV, attorneys camped out at O’Hare to offer free legal counsel to anyone affected by the Trump immigration policy. Passengers were held for hours as immigration officials questioned them, looked through their phones, and asked questions such as, “Do you hate this country?”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel came to O’Hare to publicly thank the attorneys who helped the detainees. Chicago Channel 5 reported Emanuel stated Chicago will continue to be a sanctuary city and encouraged residents to host refugees for dinner or just welcome them as visitors.
By January 31, the Chicago Tribune reported legal green card holders from the seven countries announced in the Trump immigration policy were still experiencing extensive scrutiny at O’Hare.
After a weekend of protests at O’Hare, the crowds had spread to the streets of Chicago. WBBM reported several hundred protestors outside the Department of Homeland Security on February 2.
On February 3, a federal judged issued a temporary restraining order halting the ban. On February 9, an appeals court upheld the restraining order. For now, travel has resumed at our nation’s airports.
But the U.S. government is expected to continue fighting for enactment of the Trump immigration policy. Their next move is being carefully scrutinized by Chicagoans, the rest of the nation, and the world.
Trump Immigration Policy – Effect on Business
The impact of the Trump immigration ban has been devastating to the families affected. But the ban is also having a chilling effect on Chicago businesses. Areas particularly affected by the Trump immigration policy are the tech and entrepreneurial communities.
The Chicago Sun-Times described the interconnected web between skilled foreign engineers, software developers, and local business. Samir Mayekar, CEO of siNode Systems, was quoted as saying the company was founded by a “brilliant Iranian Ph.D. student” as part of a classroom project. Mayekar suggested that the Trump immigration policy is prejudiced and doesn’t take into account the legal visa holders who played by the rules in order to build businesses and lives in the United States.
The CEO of NuCurrent, in the West Loop, agrees and shared that nine of his 15 engineers were born in foreign countries. Sindhu Rajan, CEO of a start-up called HabitNu suggested that smaller start-ups struggle to find tech talent because they cannot pay the higher wages that large enterprises such as Microsoft or Apple can afford.
These entrepreneurs suggest that the influx of tech talent brings greater diversity to the job market, along with fresh ideas and a different perspective that is vital to the melting pot our country was founded on.
What’s Next for Chicago?
Chicagoans are bracing for the next battle against Trump immigration policy. Now that the ban has been temporarily halted, most believe there are four primary potential options for the Trump administration:
- Appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. This may not be the best option, as it would take five votes to rule in President Trump's favor. The Court is missing one Justice after the Republicans refused to appoint a new Justice during the last session of Congress. This would mean a likely four/four split between conservatives and more liberal factions of the court. In this instance, the lower court ruling halting the ban would stand.
- The government could ask for a review of the executive order by the full 11-members of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th This is widely known as a “liberal” bench; so this move would also be risky for the Trump administration.
- The government could return to the original judge who heard the case in Washington State. This would start the appeals process again.
- The Trump administration could issue a new executive order.
- Or, members of Congress could enact permanent legislation applying additional restrictions across the visa program.
No matter what legal course of action the Trump administration pursues, the recommendation of the experienced legal team at Katz Law Office, Ltd. is to pursue your visa application as quickly as possible. Under Trump immigration policy, it is unlikely that restrictions will grow more lenient in the next four years. We stand ready and willing to help you down this path. Please don’t hesitate to contact us today for a free 30-minute consultation.