Federal immigration authorities detained 11 people in all Saturday at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport based on an executive order President Donald Trump signed this week, a pair of Georgia congressmen confirmed.
Nine had been released by 10 p.m., U.S. Reps. John Lewis and Hank Johnson said after emerging from a closed-door meeting with a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official. They were subjected to “extreme vetting” — or additional questioning — under Trump’s order, Johnson said. At least five of those detained are lawful permanent residents who had just returned from trips to Iran, several relatives said.
“As far as we can tell there are no written protocols that have been issued to the Customs and Border Protection officers,” Johnson said. “So they are kind of winging it, like we are winging it. And it puts them at a disadvantage because, of course, they have a job to do to keep us safe under normal conditions.”
“This is something that is very worrisome,” Johnson continued. “It appears to be a policy put in place without adequate study. So we have got chaos.”
A 76-year-old with a heart condition and glaucoma was among those who were detained after returning from Iran, said her daughter, who cited privacy reasons in asking not to be identified.
“That’s not right,” Lewis said of the woman’s detention. “That’s not fair. We can treat human beings better.”
At first, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official would not say how many were being held, Lewis said. So Lewis turned to a gathering crowd of activists and attorneys at the airport and declared: “Why don’t we just sit down and stay a while.” Eventually, an immigration official invited Lewis and Johnson into an office for a discussion.
Lewis said he sees parallels between Saturday’s events and the Civil Rights era, when he marched in Selma.
“This is America,” he said. “We can do much better.”