On Friday, January 27, 2017 at 4:42pm EST, President Donald Trump signed an executive order titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Into the United States.” Among other things, the executive order immediately suspended the entry of alien nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen for 90 days. Shortly thereafter at airports across the country, an untold number of individuals, including some United States citizens, were unlawfully and indefinitely detained; most were denied the right to counsel.
Almost immediately large, peaceful crowds of protestors, including member of faith organizations and the clergy, began to gather at airports around the nation, including DFW International Airport, to demonstrate their displeasure with the discriminatory nature of the executive order and to show their solidarity and support for those being detained. Their efforts were supported and enhanced by a rapidly growing number of attorneys who instinctively suited-up and found their way to our country’s airports ready to lend their expertise to the fight.
By Saturday night, the federal judiciary had began to step-in to, at least temporarily, halt the implementation of the executive order. However, as what can only be interpreted as a deliberate snub, the executive failed to head the ruling of the judiciary, and the detentions continued.
As the attorneys continued to organize and to develop a cohesive strategy for mounting a legal defense to not only the executive order itself, but also the executives' failure to abide by the court’s ruling, the federal government sporadically began to release the detainees. While each release was met with joy and relief, this game of cat-and-mouse between the lawyers and the government hindered the attorneys’ ability to effectively use the legal process to hold the Federal Government accountable for what everyone gathered believed to be an unlawful and unconstitutional executive order.
In Dallas, over 100 attorneys assembled at DFW International Airport, led by attorneys Chris Hamilton, Angela Hunt, Matthew Mitzner, and several others. This group, calling themselves DFW Detained, worked diligently and without compensation to ensure the release of all individuals detained at DFW International Airport pursuant to the executive order. Over the course of five days, these attorneys worked in concert with similar ad hac attorney groups stationed at airports across the country and the ACLU to coordinate a national strategy to fight the executive order and insist that the executive give proper deference to the rulings of the judiciary.
On Wednesday, February 1, 2017, DFW Detained finally received the news it had been waiting for…passengers were no longer being detained! However, this was not the finish line for our group of pro bono attorneys; it was just the beginning!