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Activist: Sea-Tac detainees not from banned countries

An attorney for one of the two men unnecessarily detained at Sea-Tac Airport said 24-hours notice of the travel ban would have made a huge difference. (AP)
LISTEN: Jorge Baron on Sea-Tac detainees

Following Donald Trump’s executive order issuing a temporary travel ban, 109 people were detained at airports across the US, including at least two at Sea-Tac Airport.

Jorge Baron, executive Director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, discussed the backgrounds of two detained individuals to KIRO Radio’s Tom and Curley. Neither man was born in any of the seven banned countries included in Trump’s order. Baron said one man was originally from Sudan, but has lived in United Arab Emirates for about 20 years. The other individual is of Yemen citizenship. He was born in, and lived most of his life in Saudi Arabia, which has different laws that make it so he didn’t have automatic Saudi citizenship.

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“So the irony is that he spent most of his time in this country that is not on the list, but his passport says something different, and that’s why he ended up in this situation,” he said.

“(The two men) had no idea this was happening so they had proper Visas, everything was fine when they boarded the plane, no problem,” Baron explained. “Because, normally, if there is a problem with your documents, they block you from getting on the plane. So both of them showed up and were completely surprised to find out there was a problem.”

Trouble beyond Sea-Tac

Baron, and a legal team from multiple entities, issued an emergency lawsuit to prevent the men from being deported. The men were detained and transferred from Sea-Tac to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.

“At that point, the clients, who had not really been able to talk to us at the time, were very distraught about this and eventually after some negotiation were allowed to go in and talk to them and meet with them,” he said. “And then it took several more hours after that for Customs or Border protection to agree and they had to get permission from Washington DC to actually release the individuals so they did not get released until Sunday morning until about 6:15 in the morning.”

Despite the controversies, Trump said of the abrupt rollout that “all is going well with very few problems.”  However, that was not the impression Baron had. He said that one of the detained clients, an engineer, said that, at the very minimum, 24-hours notice about the ban would have made a big difference

“He said, ‘Gosh, provide 24 hour’s notice. Right? Because we got on the plane we didn’t know that. If we’d have known we would have just not tried to travel,’” Baron said. “… Frankly, I think even the folks locally, the Customs and Border Protection people, were also caught off guard. They were not prepared for this. While I was talking to them while we were waiting, they clearly were caught off guard by this as well. So it was poorly handled both in terms of the bad policy but even beyond that, just incredibly bad implementation.”

Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday that the issue has been blown out of proportion.

“This is about the safety of America and there’s a reason that the majority of Americans agree with the president is because they understand that this is his No. 1 priority, and it’s his No. 1 duty as it should be with any leader to keep our people and it’s institutions safe from attack,” he said.

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