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Airport anxiety as travel ban restarts at Sea-Tac

Irfan Fazl, center, a dual citizen of the UK and Kenya, reunites with friends at Sea-Tac Airport after his flight from London. He's Muslim and his friends worried the travel ban might cause problems.
KUOW Photo/Liz Jones
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Irfan Fazl, center, a dual citizen of the UK and Kenya, reunites with friends at Sea-Tac Airport after his flight from London. He's Muslim and his friends worried the travel ban might cause problems.

Part of President Donald Trump’s travel ban is now reinstated at U.S. borders. It places new visa restrictions six Muslim countries and refugees — except for people with a close connection to the U.S. KUOW was at Sea-Tac airport Thursday night as the ban started and the first international flight came through.

 

TRANSCRIPT

British Airways Flight 49 from London. That was the first one.

Covington resident Raney Dhillon waited at baggage claim for an old college friend on that plane.

Dhillon: "Irfan, are you in customs?"

That’s Dhillon, dictating a text to her friend.

Dhillon: "Where are you?"

The plane landed an hour ago. Her friend is not from one of the banned countries, which the Trump Administration says are called out for national security reasons. 

But her friend is Muslim, and he had worried about coming for this 30-year reunion. Dillon played it down, telling him —

Dhillon: "'You don’t need to worry about it.' But he was worried. He really was."

Now she’s worried, too. Not just about this airport arrival. They’ve also got plans to visit Vancouver, B.C. 

Dhillon: "I’m worried about coming back. And I’m worried because of him, and they'll make us go through a search.”

Finally, the friend arrives. Turns out he’d been waiting in another spot.

Friend: "I’ve been waiting! I was outside!"

Dhillon: "The ban started at 5:00 and I thought they got you."

Irfan: "No!"

The friend, Irfan Fazl, says everything went smoothly.

Fazl: "Yeah, not that bad. It was fine. Easy."

At least for this one traveler. Legal groups are keeping a close eye how the ban is implemented and say fresh lawsuits are possible. 

One volunteer group, called Airport Lawyer, is on standby at Sea-Tac Airport and  other airports around the country..

Jennifer Chermoshnyuk was on the first day shift at Sea-Tac. She works at one of the law firms that partners with Airport Lawyer but for her this volunteer work is personal. 

Chermoshnyuk: “Personally my husband was  a refugee to this country 20 years ago. Looking at what bona fide definition was for this latest ban, he wouldn’t have qualified because he was sponsored by his grandmother.” 

'Bona fide connection' is a key term with this current travel ban. A Supreme Court decision says only people with specific connections here, like a parent or a job, will be allowed.

The airport lawyer volunteers spent long days here this winter, when the first travel was in effect for about a week. The repeat of chaos and confusion is not expected this time around, but the lawyers say they’ll be here for the next few days to make sure.

 

Year started with KUOW: 2006