As of Sunday night, no more foreign travelers in airport detention, officials say

More police arrived to manage the crowd and reopen the roads at LAX as thousands protested President Trump’s travel restrictions.


After a weekend of heavy protests, lawyers and demonstrators returned to Los Angeles International Airport on Monday, even as federal officials insisted that travelers initially affected by President Trump’s travel ban were no longer being detained.

As of Sunday night, U.S. Customs and Border Protection had processed all cases of individuals who were initially affected by the order at airports around the nation, according to Gillian Christensen, acting spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security.

Christensen, however, said in an email that she was unsure whether additional travelers were being processed on Monday.


Customs and Border Protection did not respond to a request for comment.

Protesters and volunteer lawyers began assembling at the Tom Bradley International Terminal late Monday morning. By noon, roughly 20 members of the local United Service Workers West, which represents airport workers under the Service Employees International Union, chanted “No ban, no wall!” in front of the terminal.

The employees had initially planned to picket for higher pay and better contact terms, but decided to weigh in on the ban following events this weekend.

“Our workers were looking around and saying, these people who are being detained, they look like us,” said USWW communications director Elizabeth Strater, who said most of the union members are people of color.

“They don’t want to see their workplace turned into a detention center.”

Trump’s sweeping travel ban on people from seven predominantly Muslim countries triggered protests at airports across the nation during the weekend.

At LAX, an undisclosed number of people from countries affected by Trump’s order — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Syria — had been detained despite having valid visas and green cards.

Homeland Security officials later clarified that green card holders from the affected countries would face additional checks when returning from trips abroad, but suggested they would not be denied entry unless a problem arose.

Areej Ali, 33, experienced the additional scrutiny firsthand Monday, when she returned to California from her native Sudan.

Ali had boarded a plane in Khartoum on Sunday and was detained after a connecting flight in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where she was nearly sent back to Sudan, said Ali’s sister, Abeer Abdelrahman.

If not for a letter sent to the airline Ali was traveling on by a lawyer that her family hired Sunday — a letter that explained Ali was a green card holder and should be cleared for entry — Ali wouldn’t have been released from Saudi Arabia, her family said.

The missive — sent on letterhead bearing the name of the family’s attorney’s firm, Hueston Hennigan — had news releases attached to it stating that the ban did not apply to green card holders.

“We were desperate as they were threatening to deport her in less than four hours,” said attorney Courtney Black, adding that she had also prepared a habeas petition on Ali’s behalf.

Abdelrahman was waiting for her sister in the arrivals area of the international terminal with other family members Monday. Abdelrahman said her sister was texting her from within LAX that she was being held back for questioning.

After about 90 minutes, Ali finally emerged from the terminal and instantly fell into an embrace with her sister, mother and brother-in-law.

“Never in a million years did I imagine something like this would happen,” said Ali, a software developer. “This is home for me.”

Ali said part of her trip to Sudan was to obtain a Sudanese passport as part of the process to gain her U.S. citizenship.

“We’ve worked so hard to come here to express ourselves and live as we should as humans,” she added. “I felt like in the past three or four days, all my rights had been stripped and everything I’ve worked for had been taken away in a snap.”

Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and other public interest law groups worked Sunday to file court papers to release those who were held.

Jennie Pasquarella, director of immigrant rights for the ACLU of California, said her group had filed habeas petitions on behalf of seven people who were detained at LAX on Saturday. All seven were later released, and of those, two elderly women were held for longer than 24 hours, she said.

The group filed a complaint on behalf of U.S.-visa holders who were held in detention by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at LAX and were denied access to legal counsel, said Marcus Benigno, communications and media advocacy director at ACLU of Southern California.

The ACLU was continuing to monitor arrivals at LAX on Monday, he said.

“The issue is not over, far from it,” Benigno said. He noted that there are U.S. visa holders stranded abroad and being denied entry back into the country.

“That is equally wrong,” he said.

Immigration attorneys working at LAX on Sunday estimated that about 20 people were being detained at any given time. A law enforcement source told The Times that 13 people had been detained at Terminal 2 on Saturday night, but each of them held a green card and was eventually released. The source could not provide detention figures for the Tom Bradley International Terminal, the airport’s locus of international travel.

Thousands gathered at the airport Sunday, rallying outside terminals, marching through roadways and blocking traffic. Two people arrested for allegedly blocking the roadway were cited and released, airport police said.

Far fewer protesters assembled on Monday, although they included unionized baggage handlers, janitors and customer service agents.

Khamin Khan, 62, who works at LAX as a lobby agent, said an anti-immigrant mood in the country has made her fearful.

“I’m a citizen and I’m a Muslim, but sometimes I’m afraid of people finding out I’m a Muslim,” said Khan, who wore her work uniform. She said she’s mainly fighting to protect her job but also opposed to Trump’s actions.

“He should be treating people with respect,” she said.

As Khan and others gathered outside the terminal, volunteer attorneys continued to staff a table inside.

As of Monday morning, they had no solid information on whether anyone was still being detained, said Aman Thind, immigration project director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles, who is coordinating the lawyers.

Cynthia Santiago, who has a solo immigration practice and spent part of the weekend providing services at LAX, said airport immigration officials have not given out information about possible detainees. The only way lawyers have a sense of whether people are being detained is if family members in the arrivals area say they’ve been waiting for a relative from abroad and haven’t seen them emerge for a long time.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations’ greater Los Angeles chapter held a news conference in Anaheim on Monday where attendees denounced the travel ban.

“An attack on any community is an attack on all of us,” said Hussam Ayloush, the chapter’s executive director. “The people have spoken… for tolerance, unity, mercy and justice against bigotry.”

Jose Moreno — an Anaheim City Council member who heads Los Amigos, a countywide alliance focusing on politics and civil rights — also spoke out against the ban that he said “works against the interest of the American community.”

Moreno said he had a message for the Trump administration: “You will not divide the city of Anaheim. You will not divide our community. We will stand together.”

Times staff writers Cindy Carcamo, James Queally, Javier Panzar and Matt Hamilton contributed to this report.

Twitter: @Brittny_Mejia


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3:35 p.m.: This article was updated with details of the CAIR news conference and comments from Ali.

12:15 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from the SEIU and ACLU.

10:50 a.m.: This article was updated with details of a CAIR-LA news conference.

This article was originally published at 8:55 a.m.