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What's Next For People From Countries On Trump's Travel Ban Seeking Entry Into The U.S.


We continue to digest the implications of yesterday's Supreme Court ruling upholding President Trump's travel ban. It represents a blow to many people in the seven affected countries who were hoping to come to the U.S., many of whom are now scrambling to figure out whether they have any chance of gaining entry.

One person fielding questions about how all this may unfold is civil rights attorney Sirine Shebaya. She represents clients from some of the countries included in the ban who are trying to come to the United States. And she's in our studio now. Welcome.

SIRINE SHEBAYA: Thank you. Pleasure to be here.

KELLY: Has your phone been ringing off the hook since yesterday?

SHEBAYA: Absolutely. Unfortunately, the decision that's come down has sown a lot of confusion among our clients. I think a lot of people were waiting for yesterday and hoping that it would be the day when there wouldn't be that much uncertainty about whether they could be reunified with their family members. But, you know, unfortunately, the decision essentially means that for people from five predominantly Muslim countries the hope of being able to come here is almost entirely gone.

KELLY: This has been called a travel ban, including by the president himself. But it's not a one-size-fits-all ban, right? It applies differently to nationals trying to come from different countries.

SHEBAYA: So this latest version of the ban does have some variation. For Syria, it's essentially a total ban. Nobody gets in. Nobody gets in on an immigrant visa. Nobody gets in on any kind of nonimmigrant visa. It's just a ban.

KELLY: But it's different if you're coming from, say, Somalia.

SHEBAYA: Yes. So Somalia's on the other end of the spectrum. For Somalia, it's immigrant visas only that are banned, whereas nonimmigrant travel - like if you're coming here as a visitor or for business or as a student...

KELLY: As a tourist.

SHEBAYA: ...As a tourist, you are able to get a visa, although you are subject to some very enhanced kind of what we call extreme vetting measures.

KELLY: Now, there's supposed to be the possibility that people could get a waiver. What kind of advice are you giving them today about that?

SHEBAYA: What we're telling them is even if the government hasn't given you a clear way to actually apply for such a waiver, let's just look at what the criteria are.

KELLY: And what are they, just to tick off a few of them?

SHEBAYA: Yeah. So the three criteria are that the person would suffer undue hardship if they weren't allowed in, that it wouldn't be detrimental to the national security or public safety interests of the United States if the person were to come in, and that it would be in the national interest of the United States if the person were to come in. So just kind of trying to highlight and paint the human picture of who this person is and why it's causing them hardship not to be able to be here.

KELLY: Is there a case or client you can point to where there's a particular urgency to their case given the situation that they're dealing with at home?

SHEBAYA: There are a number of cases that have been actually reported in the press of, you know, people with severe medical conditions, people with cancer who need, you know, someone to take care of them or in some cases a donor. I actually also don't want to detract from, though, the more kind of run-of-the-mill cases because really I think the vast majority of the people who want to come here want to come here to be with their family. There's, like, a Virginia small businessman who basically came from Syria, became a U.S. citizen, has a small business that employs lots of people in Virginia. And his mother is stuck by herself. His elderly mother is stuck by herself in Syria - and now just doesn't know what he's supposed to do to be able to bring her here where he can take care of her. And he feels like she's left alone. So, I mean, it's situations like that.

KELLY: You represent clients who want to come to the U.S. What are you hearing from them about how this experience may have colored their perception of the United States?

SHEBAYA: I think we're hearing a couple of different things actually. One is sort of serious sort of disappointment and also just a feeling of being targeted or hated or attacked. But we also continue to hear - and this has been one of the most inspiring things about doing this work. We continue to hear from our clients this enormous gratitude for all the people who are standing with them for the fact that we are still fighting for them. So I think it's just a mix of feelings.

KELLY: Thanks very much for coming in.

SHEBAYA: Thank you so much. It's my pleasure.

KELLY: That's attorney Sirine Shebaya. She is with Muslim Advocates, a civil rights and legal advocacy organization. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.