Lawyers at Ottawa airport, offering free legal advice for those affected by Trump travel ban
Published Monday, February 6, 2017 5:32PM EST Last Updated Monday, February 6, 2017 6:43PM EST
Lawyers across North America, including right here in Ottawa, are mobilizing to help those who might be stranded by the ban.
The Canadian effort is being led by Refugee Hub and an Ottawa lawyer and professor who is the managing director of Refugee Hub.
It was a scene throughout airports in the United States today as Americans greeted their loved ones from one of those seven countries affected by Trump's travel ban. They had taken this narrow window of opportunity to legally come in to the United States.
“I don't know what to say,” says one woman in Colorado, as she hugged her mother who had just travelled from Iran, “We've been waiting for this moment for years.”
In a corner of the departure area at the Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International airport, two Ottawa lawyers were hoping to continue to make those reunions happen. Alison Reed and Ania Kwadrans are
offering free legal advice to those travelling through Ottawa to the U.S. who might be impacted by the travel ban.
“There was a call out to members of the bar saying we need lawyers at the airports,” explains Reed, “It's something I responded to as soon as I could and this is my first morning here.”
Ania Kwadrans has volunteered three days in a row since the temporary restraining order was imposed on the ban.
“Iwent to law school and became a lawyer so I could assist people in need,” she says, “to promote justice. I see a huge injustice going on now with Trump’s travel ban, barring people on the basis of their country of origin.”
Lawyers are stationed in four airports across this country: Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and here in Ottawa. It is a fluid situation as the travel ban works its way through the U.S. court system.
The lawyers call themselves the Canadian Cross Border Legal Coalition and include between three and four hundred who have signed up on a roster, working with travellers, airlines and ticket agents to ensure those with valid documents are not banned from the U.S. They have had few requests for help at the Ottawa airport so far.
“As far as we know, everything has been going smoothly and airlines have been issuing tickets to those who might be affected by travel ban,” says Kwadrans.
But that can quickly change. The Trump administration is trying to restore the ban and the legal challenge is ongoing.
Jennifer Bond is the managing director of Refugee Hub, the organization leading the coalition,
“Right now, we know people can travel throughout the day today,” she explains, “if you are someone with a valid document and you are considering re-entering the U.S., we would encourage you do that today.”
Bond says if Trump wins the appeal, the coalition will just re-focus its work, offering support and references to those caught in the ban. The lawyers donating their time know they are in this for the long haul.
“In challenging times, I’m heartened by the widespread response,” Bond says, “it is amazing but not inconsistent that we have hundreds of lawyers volunteering their time across the country.”
The lawyers in Canada say they are ready to ramp up their mobilization efforts. Their next stop, depending on what happens with this ban, will likely be to expand their services at the land border crossings.