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Canadian lawyers at airports to help those caught up in Trump’s travel ban

Tuesday, February 07, 2017 @ 3:27 PM | By Tom Venetis

Canadian lawyers are working at several major Canadian airports to provide information and help those with valid visas get into the United States who are travelling from the countries under U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent travel ban.

The travel ban was issued on Jan. 27, having been implemented by executive order, and impacted citizens and immigrants from seven countries, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. When the order was issued it caused many travellers and immigrants with valid visas to be turned away from boarding flights to the U.S. or to be prevented from entering the U.S. after landing at an American airport.  

Corey Shefman, a lawyer with Olthuis Kleer Townshend LLP, said that after the executive order was issued and news reports of people being prevented boarding flights to the U.S. began to emerge, lawyers from across Canada banded together to place volunteer lawyers and advocates in major airports across Canada to help those caught up in Trump’s executive order.

Teams of lawyers are now at Toronto Pearson Airport, Montreal’s Pierre-Elliott Trudeau Airport, Vancouver International Airport and Macdonald-Cartier International Airport in Ottawa.

“We also set up the Canadian Cross-Border Legal Coalition (CCBLC) which is helping organize the lawyers from across Canada and to have a co-ordinated-national legal response to President Trump’s travel ban,” Shefman added.

Shefman is co-ordinating the Toronto airport monitoring. Lawyers and advocates are on hand from 4 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the airport and are there to ensure that those travelling with legal visas from the countries singled out in the ban are allowed to board aircraft heading to the United States.

Judge James Robart, a federal judge at the United States District Court, Western District of Washington in Seattle, issued a ruling on Feb. 3 that blocked key parts of the executive order. This allows citizens from those countries to travel to the U.S. if they have a valid visa and to have revoked visas reinstated. Those with visas stamped 'cancelled' can apply for a waiver.

“We have dealt with a number of situations where the airlines were not properly responding to the order which had temporarily put a halt to the ban and were refusing to board those passengers,” Shefman said. “Our volunteer lawyers worked with the airlines and showed them the order and advocated on that issue and managed to correct that situation.”

Shefman's team has copies of Judge Robart’s decision at the ready so that the decision can be shown to pre-screening agents by those impacted by the travel ban. “We found that when a traveller had a copy of that order on their person, they were less likely to be stopped from boarding.”

Emily Bates, director of the Refugee Hub in Ottawa which is assisting in work of the lawyers across Canada said that the situation for travellers from those countries listed in the travel ban is still very much up in the air.  

The U.S. Justice Department will be presenting arguments on Feb. 7 before the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco in an effort to reinstate at least part of President Trump’s executive order.

“We don’t known what will happen,” Bates said. “But this coalition is ready to act on a bigger scale as needed. In the meantime, we will continue to monitor the border to make sure people’s right to travel is being respected.”