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Who's affected as partial travel ban is poised to roll out

As the evening wore on, protesters convened outside the Tom Bradley International terminal at Los Angeles International Airport on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017. The protesters were calling for the release of immigrants detained under President Donald Trump's executive order effectively banning travel from seven majority Muslim nations.
Brian Frank/KPCC
FILE PHOTO: Protesters convened outside the Tom Bradley International terminal at Los Angeles International Airport on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017, following implementation of President Donald Trump's initial executive order effectively banning travel from seven majority Muslim nations.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s order implementing parts of President Trump’s revised travel ban is set to kick in Thursday, but questions remain whether the implementation will be smooth or bumpy.

Legal experts say the high court's order allows many travelers to enter the country. U.S. residents and people with valid visas should not be impacted, according to the experts.

“I think anybody prior to this order who has a visa should be fine," said Los Angeles immigration attorney Stacy Tolchin.

That said, Tolchin said she anticipates problems at the airport for some, especially for people without U.S. ties who are arriving on tourist visas.

"Our worst-case scenario is someone that literally wants to come to Disneyland, to come to the theme parks, to come to see Hollywood, and has no ties here," Tolchin said. "Those are the ones I’d be most worried about."

The court order will temporarily stop people applying to travel from six Muslim-majority countries and refugees who have no visas yet and have no established, bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.

Those ties can be to family members, a university, or a U.S. refugee resettlement agency. 

While those who have visas are not covered by the ban, Tolchin suggests that travelers from the targeted countries — Syria, Libya, Iran, Sudan, Yemen and Somalia — who are arriving this week with valid visas in hand should be prepared.

“At this point, I would certainly advise people that if they do have ties to the U.S. then they bring evidence of that," she said. "So if you have a close familiar relationship, then you want to bring documents showing a letter from your family member, that sort of thing."

Evidence of a relationship with an employer, a university or other documents could be helpful, too, Tolchin said.

The biggest impact will be on those who plan travel but don’t have visas yet. People applying for tourist visas from the targeted countries who don't have a U.S. tie could be out of luck during the 90 days that the travel ban is in effect.

Also affected would be refugees in the pipeline who are at an earlier stage in the application process and have yet to be connected with a U.S. resettlement agency.  For them, the ban extends to 120 days.

Refugees who are arriving through a U.S. resettlement agency should be alright, said Jose Serrano with the Garden Grove office of World Relief, itself a resettlement agency. But much depends on whether U.S. customs officials are well prepared to implement the new rules, he said.

"A refugee under the current ban, because they have linkage to the U.S. via their refugee status and their connection with a resettlement agency — and perhaps they also have a U.S. tie — they should have no problem upon entering the United States," Serrano said.

"The only issue that we have actually witnessed and seen when the past ban was put into effect was that a lot of folks, who were not listed on the six or seven countries, were actually having difficulty."

Serrano said one family from Afghanistan that his agency represented earlier this year was detained for four days upon arrival, although Afghanistan was not among the targeted countries. The family was arriving with special immigration visa status, which is reserved for those who have worked for the U.S. military or government.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials did not respond Tuesday to a query from KPCC about how officers were being trained to implement the travel ban as it is applied under the court's order.

On Monday, the U.S. State Department issued a statement saying the agency would keep "those traveling to the United States and partners in the travel industry informed as we implement the order in a professional, organized, and timely way."

The statement went on to say that the agency was "in contact with our partners in the implementation of the United States Refugee Admissions Program, and will keep them apprised of changes as they take effect."

Some who support President Trump's initial travel ban, created with the aim of keeping terrorists out of the country, say the court did not go far enough in reinstating it.

“We’d like to see the original executive order imposed, except as it may apply to existing green card holders who are overseas," said Joe Guzzardi with Californians for Population Stabilization, an immigration-restriction advocacy group.

Guzzardi said he also objected to the court's exemption for people with bona fide U.S. ties because it may cause confusion as the ban is implemented.

The president's original travel ban was imposed in late January and caused chaos at LAX and other the airports as travelers, including legal permanent residents, were delayed and detained. Some travelers were sent back to their countries of origin.

After a court put the initial travel ban on hold, the Trump administration issued a revised version that exempts legal residents and people with current visas.

Both the original and revised versions of the travel ban had been challenged in lower courts and placed on hold. The Supreme Court plans to review those decisions and hear full arguments on the travel ban in October.

Tolchin, the Los Angeles attorney, said she expects more lawsuits as the partial ban takes effect.

"We are going to see people that, just as it happened in January, are going to be turned away and essentially physically deported," she predicted.

With this in mind, legal advocates who set up camp at LAX in January to counsel detained travelers and their families are planning to return to the airport on Thursday.

There's been no immediate word on protests and demonstrations similar to those that ensued in January and disrupted traffic at the airport.