(Bloomberg) — As new U.S. travel rules plunged several large American airports into chaos, lawyers for some travelers who are long-term legal residents said the government had urged them to relinquish their status as a requirement for reentering the country.
This was among the more curious developments over a weekend in which a Trump administration order restricting entry into America was met with condemnation abroad and furious protests at home. The official U.S. document, Form I-407, “record of abandonment of lawful permanent resident status,” was distributed on several aircraft that landed this weekend at Los Angeles International Airport, said Rachel Odio, an immigration lawyer with pro-bono law firm Public Counsel. Other travelers saw the forms after they had been detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection employees in the airport, she said.
Public Counsel assisted about 50 travelers detained at LAX since the Trump’s executive order was issued Friday. Several federal courts subsequently temporarily restricted full enforcement of the ban as constitutional challenges move forward.
The CBP didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment, including calls and emails to several spokespersons around the country.
“It’s absurd. There’s no legal basis for it,” Odio said of the requests to renounce residency. Because many of the forms are being signed “under duress” in isolated airport rooms without access to family, attorney representation, or even food, “there is definitely a strong argument that their signature is without consent.”
Airlines seeking clarity
Trump imposed the travel ban on people from seven predominantly Muslim nations: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan, and Yemen. The policy didn’t include several nations with ties to past U.S. terror attacks or where Trump’s companies do business, including Egypt, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia.
On Monday, Trump attempted to blame the upheaval on a technical glitch at Delta Air Lines Inc., though the glitch occurred two full days after his order was issued and after protests had begun. Delta didn’t respond to Bloomberg’s queries about the president’s comment.
The International Association of Air Transport (IATA) said the executive order “placed additional burdens on airlines to comply with unclear requirements” and imposed implementation costs and penalties. IATA is seeking “clarity” from the U.S. administration. “Moreover, we urge all governments to provide sufficient advance coordination of changes in entry requirements so that travelers can clearly understand them and airlines can efficiently implement them,” the Geneva-based group said in a statement.
Lufthansa spokeswoman Christina Semmel said the travel changes have caused only “a few recorded cases” whereby the airline hasn’t allowed a customer to travel to the U.S. “Customers who have been affected by these new regulations are offered a free rebooking or are given a full refund,” she wrote in an e-mail. A New York-based spokeswoman for British Airways, Michele Kropf, said none of the carrier’s customers had been refused entry to the U.S. due to the order. Emirates, which said it has changed some flight staffing to comply with the U.S. requirements, is offering refund and travel rebooking options for people affected.