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Attorneys: travel ban fight is 'a marathon' with no end in sight

Darran Simon, CNN | 3/7/2017, 10:33 a.m.
In the days after President Donald Trump's first travel ban was introduced on January 27, clients streamed into Neha Vyas' ...
Protesters at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport CNN photo

(CNN) -- In the days after President Donald Trump's first travel ban was introduced on January 27, clients streamed into Neha Vyas' Seattle law office. Some just wanted to hear a reassuring voice. She was a lawyer, counselor and therapist all in one.

And she herself was panicked.

At times, she wondered how she could advise clients under what she said seemed to be conditions of "complete and utter chaos" created by Trump's executive orders.

Trump introduced the second iteration of his travel ban Monday, after the first one was blocked in the courts. Unlike the first version, the new order does not include Iraq on the list of Muslim-majority countries whose citizens are temporarily blocked from entering the United States. Travelers from Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia and Sudan will be barred from obtaining visas for at least 90 days.

The people who have worked to bring stability to the lives of immigrants over the past month have had their lives upended at times in the fight against the travel ban. Attorneys and activists who oppose it say they expect an arduous battle ahead -- and that they are prepared.

Here are a few of their stories:

'Beset from all sides'

The travel ban came down as Atlanta immigration attorney Sarah Owings, 35, chair of the Georgia/Alabama chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, was working on the chapter's Friday newsletter.

She was still digesting Trump's first pair of executive orders on immigration, one of which called for an increase in the number of immigration enforcement officers who carry out deportations.

In a break with precedent, she said, lawyers were left scrambling to figure out how the travel ban would be interpreted and implemented. "That's not how this happens," Owings said. "Typically, under Obama, if you had an order, it would be released contemporaneously with policy memorandums from the heads of these agencies."

The next morning, Owings left home around 11 a.m., heading to Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport after a colleague told her a story about a deaf immigrant without an interpreter who was possibly being detained at the airport.

Owings sent messages to colleagues on the way there and fielded messages from attorneys who wanted to volunteer and people who couldn't locate relatives.

Members of her immigration lawyers chapter reached out to lawmakers, including Rep. John Lewis.

At Hartsfield, a growing group of attorneys found space on the ground and got to work, as lawyers were doing at other airports around the country.

Owings remembers turning to Lewis, who suggested they stage a sit-in while waiting for answers from airport officials. Lewis was nearly beaten to death marching for civil rights in Alabama.

"I said 'Okay, so this is my first sit-in,' " Owings recalled saying.

Over the next few days, Owings and other attorneys paid close attention to the flurry of lawsuits challenging the ban to see which airports their clients could fly into. After a federal court in Washington state blocked the ban, they shifted focus to local immigration raids