Four additional people - including a 76-year-old woman - are still being held at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport by federal immigration authorities on Saturday after returning from Iran, according to relatives.
Authorities are citing President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration, signed late Friday.
Earlier Saturday evening, another four Georgians were released after being held for hours. They were also returning from Iran.
A father, mother and their 10-year-old daughter from Suwanee were greeted with hugs and tears from anxious relatives in the arrivals area of the international terminal Saturday night. Another woman from Alpharetta was also released after being detained. All had green cards.
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U.S Reps. John Lewis and Hank Johnson arrived at the airport Saturday night and were greeted by a small throng of activists and lawyers.
“Why don’t we just sit down and stay awhile?” Lewis, of Atlanta, told the group. He said U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials are refusing to give him information about how many people are still being held.
Mansour Kenareh of Suwanee said his brother-in-law’s family were held for four hours by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials at the airport.
“They went back to visit their parents and siblings and now they come back and are facing this new overnight ruling,” Kenareh said as he waited for his relatives in the international terminal.
“There is a big difference between a visa – which means permission to enter – and permanent residence, which gives the right to live in this country,” he continued. “Right now, the authorities are completely confused… I’m very concerned about the response I’m getting.”
Kenareh said his brother in law old him after his release that there were four other Iranians being held.
The daughter of a 76-year-old woman said her motheris among them.
Nabee Mosavi of Alpharetta said his mother-in-law – a certified public accountant – was detained for about an hour.
“She got her green card back in 2011,” Mosavi said as he waited along with Kenareh.
“I have no idea what the reason is to hold her,” he continued. “This is not right for green card-holders.”
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Sarah Owings, a local immigration attorney, is helping the families at the airport.
“These are people who live here — who have houses, dogs, cars,” Owings said. “We are being stonewalled. We are not being given any information beyond the number and email address for the public affairs officer” from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday.
Meanwhile, the fate of some 40 Atlanta-bound refugees is in limbo after Trump closed the U.S. border to all refugees trying to enter the U.S., the head of the local office of a refugee organization said Saturday. The refugees were already on their way from Asia and Africa when the executive order was signed Friday afternoon, said J.D. McCrary, executive director of the Atlanta office for the International Rescue Committee. They are scheduled to arrive Monday.
“The question is, what’s going to happen to all the people who are already in the air, all of the people who are on the first or second leg [of their journeys]?” McCrary said. “We haven’t heard anything about that.”
The New York Times reported that two refugees who were on flights to the U.S. when the executive order was signed were stopped and detained at New York’s Kennedy Airport. Lawyers said one worked on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq for 10 years. The other was to reunite with his wife, who had worked for an American contractor, and their young son.
Trump’s executive order suspends all refugees from entering the U.S. for 120 days, and bars those from war-torn Syria indefinitely. It also blocks entry to citizens from seven Muslim nations.