RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We are in the midst of an epic few days of the American story. President Donald Trump delivered an order on Friday stopping all refugees and visitors from some countries from entering the United States.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
That led to a weekend of confusion around the world - detentions, releases and protests at airports across the United States. Here in Washington, in fact, you could have spent most of your day going from one protest to another around the city. Overseas, a man named Fuad Sharif tried to fly from Iraq, which is one of the affected countries, to get his Ph.D. in Nashville, Tenn.
FUAD SHARIF: I read about it on the internet. I (unintelligible) about it's a growing city. It's a nice city. It's called Music City.
INSKEEP: Mr. Sharif, his wife and their three children had visas to come to the United States and even got their boarding passes for a flight and made it all the way to the gate for a connecting flight in Cairo, Egypt, when they learned they could not get on the plane.
SHARIF: I was looking at the faces of my wife and kids. They turned pale yellow, and they were about to faint and fell down to the ground. All dreams collapsed in one second.
INSKEEP: All dreams collapsed in one second, Mr. Sharif said. They're now back in Erbil, Iraq, which is where they started. The White House says the confusion here is a small price to pay for an act that keeps Americans safe. And we're going to talk about that throughout the program. NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson is on the line now.
Carrie, good morning.
CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: Would you clarify for us who exactly is covered by this order?
JOHNSON: President Trump's order suspended new refugee admissions for 120 days, and it singled out travelers from seven countries - Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia. They're barred for 90 days. Now, Steve, one huge point of confusion all weekend long is how the order covered green card holders.
JOHNSON: Those are people who are permanent residents of the U.S. And some of them were detained at airports this past weekend. Homeland Security leaders now say those folks are allowed in so long as there's no evidence they've been up to no good overseas.
INSKEEP: OK. So they actually adjusted the order, according to the reporting, at the last moment to include green card holders. And now they've decided, after some of the blowback, to exclude, more or less, green card holders. Is that right?
JOHNSON: It seems as if they've landed at the position that green card holders are going to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, Steve.
INSKEEP: Oh, which is actually what the language said originally. But they're just talking about it differently.
There were legal challenges over the weekend, and judges sided with the the opponents, at least in some cases. Where do things stand?
JOHNSON: Yeah. Steve, in at least four cases, federal judges sided with migrants or travelers. The ACLU sued in Brooklyn over the detention of two clients who were held at JFK Airport. Judge Ann Donnelly issued a temporary restraining order barring not just the deportation of them but as many as 200 other people or more. The judge cited irreparable harm those folks would face if they were sent back. And she's demanded the Trump administration provide a list of all affected refugees and travelers, Steve.
INSKEEP: OK. But that's just people who were in transit or already in the United States, right? The president has the right to keep out other people if he chooses to do that.
JOHNSON: He does. The president has broad legal authority in this regard. Two other judges, though, did something slightly different. A judge in Virginia ordered travelers a green card holders be allowed to consult with attorneys. Another in Massachusetts ruled that folks were not only free from deportation who had been stuck in the airport but they need to be released.
Steve, there are reports from pro-bono lawyers all weekend that border agents may not be complying with some of those directives from federal judges, which is a problem.
INSKEEP: Is that clear that they are or aren't? And is the administration openly defying the courts?
JOHNSON: We don't know for sure. We've heard from ACLU lawyers, other advocates for immigrants that there's evidence. They're being kept from talking with attorneys about the situation. It is mysterious at this point, and some Democrats in Congress are demanding a meeting with DHS.
INSKEEP: OK. So we'll keep looking for answers as we can get them.
What is the president saying about all this, Carrie?
JOHNSON: Well, after a torrent of criticism all weekend, President Trump finally weighed in with a statement. He says it's all about protecting American borders and keeping the country safe. Homeland Security says only a small percentage of the average number of people who journeyed to the U.S. this weekend were - in its words - inconvenienced. And the DHS says no matter what these judges' rulings say, the president's order remains in place and the U.S. government can revoke visas at any time.
INSKEEP: What happens to all the legal challenges now, given that the order, broadly - with some exceptions - is in place?
JOHNSON: Well, Steve, the White House says the president has sweeping authority on immigration and at the border. There is a federal law that allows the president to suspend people if he determined their entry is detrimental to the nation. But there are also laws that conflict a little bit. There's a 1965 law on the books that says people should not experience preferences or discrimination on the basis of race, sex, nationality when it comes to immigration. And Trump's order appears to grant some religious preference to Christians, which could be a target of lawsuits moving forward, including one, I'm hearing, by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which could be coming very soon.
INSKEEP: Are you referring to the provision that says persecuted religious minorities can still get in? And the president said in an interview the other day - yeah, I meant Christians by that - maybe not exclusively, but that's what he was talking about.
JOHNSON: Yeah. And, you know, opponents of this order seem to suggest that this is a disguised way, a clever way by the administration to impose what they call a Muslim ban. Now, Donald Trump says this is not a Muslim ban. But Trump's close associate Rudy Giuliani told Fox News over the weekend that Donald Trump reached out to him and others about how to make such a ban legal and give it legal cover.
Steve, those statements could be used by refugee advocates to demonstrate some discriminatory intent by the administration in lawsuits going forward.
INSKEEP: Carrie, thanks very much as always.
JOHNSON: You're welcome.
INSKEEP: That's NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson.
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