By Yeganeh Torbati and Doina Chiacu
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s sweeping ban on people seeking refuge in the United States and visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries caused confusion and panic among travellers on Saturday, with some turned back from U.S.-bound flights.
Immigration lawyers in New York sued to block the order, saying numerous people have already been unlawfully detained.
The new Republican president on Friday put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily barred travellers from Syria and six other Muslim-majority countries. He said the moves would protect Americans from terrorism, in a swift and stern delivery on a campaign promise.
The bans affects travellers with passports from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
The action prompted fury from Arab travellers in the Middle East and North Africa who said it was humiliating and discriminatory. It drew widespread criticism from U.S. Western allies including France and Germany, Arab-American groups and human rights organizations.
Iran condemned the order as an “open affront against the Muslim world and the Iranian nation” and vowed to retaliate. Of the seven countries targeted, Iran sends the most visitors to the United States each year – around 35,000 in 2015, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
The ban extends to green card holders who are authorized to live and work in the United States, according to Gillian Christensen, a Homeland Security spokeswoman.
It was unclear how many green card holders would be affected, but exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis.
LEGAL RESIDENTS STUNNED
Legal residents of the United States were plunged into despair at the prospect of being unable to return to the United States or being separated from family members trapped abroad. Immigration lawyers worked through the night to help stranded travellers and enforcement at entry points was uneven.