How many people were affected by President Trump’s travel ban when it was first put into place and how many more would be if it were allowed to take effect again?
Orrick is setting out to answer those questions as part of the legal community’s massive pro bono response to the ban, which Trump introduced in an executive order on Jan. 27 but has since been put on hold by the federal courts.
Led by pro bono counsel Rene Kathawala, Orrick has created a cloud-based system that allows advocates to track how many people have been or would be barred from entering the United States under the order. The information could eventually be used as evidence in cases challenging the order or to help guide future policies. In an argument before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on the ban last week, for example, the judges asked about the order’s potential impact but attorneys weren’t able to provide solid evidence.
“In moments of crisis, one thing that often falls short is really good data collection,” said Kathawala, who noted that the firm can grant access to the database to immigration advocates. “Being able to both collect and analyze the data that exists as a result of the implementation of the ban is hugely important.”
Kathawala spent the first weekend in February with representatives from the ACLU, the International Refugee Assistance Project, which works to enforce legal and human rights for refugees and internally displaced persons, and the National Immigration Law Center, which focuses on the rights of low-income immigrants, creating a questionnaire that will allow advocates to streamline collection of relevant information from immigrants and their families. The questionnaire s — which ask about a person’s country of birth, current location, and legal basis for travel to the United States — are being filled out at pop-up legal help centers in airports across the country and by attorneys assisting individual people who have been affected by the ban or who have family members who have been.
The database was created by Orrick with the help of Trialomics, a data science and consulting firm, and went live for advocates last week after Kathawala asked for volunteer staff and lawyers at his firm to help input the information collected on the ground.
“That’s one of the luxuries of running a major pro bono program at a law firm,” he said. “Seventy-five people put up their hand within an hour after I sent the email out. We have the resources to do this and allow the advocates to gain the benefits.”
Orrick’s pro bono efforts are not the first or the last related to the controversial immigration order, which suspended the United States refugee program and barred entry from seven predominantly Muslim countries. A temporary restraining order against the restrictions issued by a Seattle federal judge was upheld last week by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
When Becca Heller, director and co-founder of the International Refugee Assistance Project, put out a call for help in dealing with the anticipated fallout from Trump’s executive order, the response was overwhelming.
“I’m literally getting more calls than I can even field,” she said.
Paul Weiss was one of the first firms to volunteer to staff New York’s John F. Kennedy airport in 24-hour shifts. While sitting at an airport diner, partner Robert A. Atkins, a member of the firm’s management committee, drafted a habeas petition that he said eventually was used as a template by other attorneys handling cases as they materialized in the terminals. The firm also is assisting on individual cases, including by helping arrange for a 4-month-old Iranian baby to enter the United States for life-saving medical treatment.
[caption id="attachment_42556" align="aligncenter” width="539"][Image “PW photo” (src=https://bol.bna.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/PW-photo.jpg)]Left to right: Zoey Jones, of Brooklyn Defender Services, Domna Antoniadis, of New York Legal Assistance Group, Bob Atkins and Daniel Wolff, of Paul, Weiss, huddle at JFK airport in the wake of the immigration order.[/caption]
Firms have been fielding matters stemming from the immigration ban from all directions.
Willkie Farr & Gallagher New York-based partner Gordon R. Caplan learned about the case of Alma Kashkooli, a 12-year-old Iranian girl who was barred by the executive order from entering the United States, through a long-planned, unrelated meeting with the dean of his alma mater, Fordham Law School. Kashkooli, who had a visa to receive medical treatment in the United States for a rare genetic condition, is the daughter of Fahimeh Kashkooli, an LL.M. student studying human rights law at Fordham.
“Willkie immediately went into high gear in terms of organizing advocacy efforts around her,” said Matthew Diller, Fordham’s dean.
The firm mobilized its pro bono team to pursue diplomatic channels and litigation on the younger Kashkooli’s behalf. In the end, however, a temporary restraining order against the Trump administration issued on Feb. 3 by Seattle U.S. District Judge James L. Robart gave Willkie the window it needed to bring her home. Willkie associate Shaimaa M. Hussein traveled to Istanbul to meet Alma and bring her back to New York to her mother, who couldn’t leave the United States out of fear that she wouldn’t be able to return.
“This case hit particularly close to home,” said Hussein, whose parents immigrated to the United States from Egypt when she was 4-years-old. “Hearing Alma’s story and everything her mother went through to keep her safe — it reminded me of all the reasons my parents came here.”
[caption id="attachment_42561" align="aligncenter” width="424"][Image “Willkie” (src=https://bol.bna.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Willkie-e1487017701833.jpg)]Left to right: Willkie litigation partner Richard Mancino, Fordham L.L.M. student Fahimeh Kashkooli and Willkie associate Shaimaa Hussein.[/caption]
Reed Smith’s Human Rights Team, which includes about 100 lawyers around the world and is led by Jayne E. Fleming, has about 30 active cases on behalf of refugees in Jordan, where the firm has been working for two years. Many of them involve life-threatening medical conditions, and now they are all in limbo, Fleming said, including the case of Sham Aldaher, a Syrian girl who was born without an eye and with other facial deformities. She and her family were supposed to be resettled in the United States but are now held up by the order. Although Judge Robart’s ruling provided an opening for travel, a surgery Sham underwent last week made that impossible, at least for now.
If it is upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, Fleming is hoping to use the temporary restraining order to bring in several female clients who were subjected to gender-based violence in one of the seven countries affected by Trump’s executive action. They had previously been cleared for entry into the United States, but now their status is uncertain.
“All of the lawyers who are trying to help people are really scrambling right now because it’s such a confusing environment,” Fleming said. “You feel like the window of opportunity is closing for some people who are in desperate need of care.”
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