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Yemeni immigrants with ties to Fresno sue Trump over travel ban

A federal judge in Los Angeles added another legal ruling on President Donald Trump’s executive order against immigrants of seven predominantly Muslim countries, allowing 28 Yemeni-born people – some with ties to Fresno – to fly into Los Angeles International Airport.

U.S. District Judge André Birotte Jr. on Tuesday granted the temporary restraining order sought by Julie Goldberg, a lawyer based in the East African country of Djibouti. Goldberg is representing nearly 250 people from Yemen who were denied entry despite having valid visas because of Trump’s ban.

Goldberg, an immigration attorney with offices in New York and Los Angeles, along with fellow attorney Daniel Covarrubias-Klein, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

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In granting the order, Birotte found that the plaintiffs are likely to succeed when their case is heard in court and “are likely to suffer irreparable harm” if the request was not granted. The judge took it a step further, ordering that his ruling also apply to “any other person” from the seven affected countries “with a valid immigrant visa.” His ruling does not apply to people with other types of legal entry, such as refugees or tourists.

The Sacramento Bee reported that Goldberg also filed an action in the U.S. Eastern District of California, headquartered in Sacramento, on behalf of several clients in Fresno. The Fresno suit was filed last week under seal before Trump issued his executive order.

At least one of the plaintiffs named in the Los Angeles suit is from Fresno. The Sacramento Bee reported that Murad Khaled Ali, who is enrolled in a master’s degree program and lives in Fresno, had been in Djibouti for the past week in anticipation of her husband’s visa appointment. The couple became stuck there indefinitely because of Trump’s order.

Reached by phone Wednesday, Goldberg, who has represented Yemenis in Djibouti since May 2015, said around 75 of her clients have ties to Fresno. Those stranded aren’t refugees – they are spouses and children of U.S. citizens, she said. Many are experiencing extreme hardship because of the ban.

She said an additional 1,000 or so people in Djibouti had embassy appointments canceled because of the ban. And she said about 180 people were unable to have their visas printed after the embassy received news of Trump’s order.

Goldberg said her clients have been working in the U.S. for years while their wives and children remained in Yemen. Many later fled the country’s ongoing civil war to Djibouti, which is located across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen.

“Some of these people turned around have been waiting for 10 years,” she said. “I have cases that the embassy has just adjudicated that were filed in 1997.”

One of her clients is an American man whose three children had just been issued visas. The man has a badly broken leg from a recent accident but because of the ban, he and his children were turned back to Djibouti when they reached Istanbul for a layover.

“There’s absolutely no proper medical care here, so that’s a concern,” she said. “He’s a U.S. citizen, but what’s he going to do, leave his three minor children here?”

Goldberg noted that another of her clients is a 6-year-old whose father is a citizen and mother is a legal permanent resident. The parents live in Fresno. She said the mother can’t leave the country because of the executive order and the father needs to work to support the family.

Trump’s order bars a wide variety of people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days. It also bans all refugees for 120 days and Syrian refugees indefinitely.

Those affected include visitors, students, temporary workers, people who are engaged to U.S. citizens and new immigrants. Legal permanent residents, or green card holders, and those with special immigrant visas (such as military interpreters) are to be assessed upon arrival in the U.S. on a case-by-case basis.

It’s unclear how much impact Birotte’s order will have. Several other judges have issued rulings that block certain aspects of Trump’s order, but it’s unknown to what extent they have been followed by immigration officials. For example, a judge in Brooklyn ordered that travelers who arrived at airports with valid visas be allowed to enter the country. But reports later surfaced of people being turned back.

Covarrubias-Klein, the other attorney on the case, told the Los Angeles Times that he had received secondhand reports from people in Djibouti that, following Birotte’s order, some of the families in the case tried to purchase flights to the U.S. but were told they would not be permitted to do so.

Andrea Castillo: 559-441-6279, @andreamcastillo

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