No chaos at JFK as partial travel ban kicks in

By Bill Parry

A small group of lawyers and activists, who set up shop in Terminal 4 at JFK International Airport last week as the Trump administration’s partial travel ban went into effect, saw no signs of detained travelers in need of assistance.

The attorneys, organized by the New York Immigration Coalition, stationed observers at gates for international arrivals June 29 and were prepared for a full-blown presence had it become necessary, but federal agencies were much-better prepared than in January to handle immigration issues overseas at embassies and consulates.

The group, known as NoBanJFK, had dispersed from JFK by the weekend, but continue to keep an eye on the situation.

The volunteer attorneys continue to monitor their NoBanJFK Hotline at 844-326-4940 for travelers who are detained or are in need of assistance. They can also be reached by email at jfkneedalawyer@gmail.com.

The same day the partial travel ban went into effect, the House of Representatives passed two bills, on party line votes, that crack down on illegal immigration in a bid to carry out the administration’s promise of tougher enforcement. President Trump called the two measures “vital to public safety and national security.”

One of the bills, dubbed Kate’s Law, boosts penalties for immigrants who try and re-enter the United States after being deported. It is named for Kate Steinle, a young woman who was shot and killed in San Francisco in 2015 by an immigrant who had seven felony convictions and had been deported repeatedly only to return to the U.S. several times.

The second piece of legislation goes after so-called sanctuary cities — localities that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities. The “No Sanctuaries for Criminals Act” would toughen penalties for these sanctuary cities in multiple ways. For example, it would require that municipalities and counties comply with orders from federal immigration officials, such as “detainers” that keep immigrants in jail so they can be picked up for deportation.

It would also bar U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department grants for sanctuary cities that don’t comply. It is not clear how the measures would fare in the Senate or when GOP leaders would move to bring them up on the floor.

“Neither of these bills would make America safer, improve our broken immigration system, or bolster relationships between immigrant communities and law enforcement officials,” U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), the House Democratic Caucus chairman, said. “In fact, the Republicans’ attacks against sanctuary cities would put Americans at risk by withholding federal funding from cities like New York City to combat terrorism. These bills would also only further codify the dangerous and hateful rhetoric we’ve seen coming from President Trump’s administration. We must stand against policies that unfairly demonize our immigrant communities and instead focus on continuing the American tradition of welcoming those who come to our country to improve their lives and contribute to our communities.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.