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Volunteers assist “banned” travelers at Boston’s Logan Airport

February 11, 2017: When two Massachusetts judges ruled on January 29, 2017, that President Trump’s Executive Orders could not restrict travelers to Logan International Airport for the next seven days, Boston instantly became the focus of worldwide attention. Professor Dina Francesca Haynes, with assistance from New England Law students and alumni volunteers, was an active participant in a fast-developing, historic chapter in immigration law.

The Orders, signed on January 27, suspended immigration from seven African and Middle Eastern nations, and Haynes was in contact with attorneys in Amsterdam, Frankfort, and Munich, where some travelers had remained at the airports. Many rushed to rebook passage to Boston when it suddenly emerged as a viable American entry point.

“I had probably 1,000 e-mails, Facebook queries, and WhatsApp messages, asking for assistance and organizing advice to those who were stranded,” said Haynes.

New England Law contributions

The law school contingent helped staff an impromptu “lawyering table” at Logan’s international terminal. Students Sarah Baker ’17, Jessica Hamm ’17, and Justin Rostoff ’17 were joined by alumni volunteers Ashley Edens ’08, Kelly Renaud ’15, and Alexander Teschemacher ’15. 

“I was among the attorneys there to serve clients,” said Haynes. “Students asked the newly arrived if they wanted to talk with attorneys and reviewed what changes, if any, Customs and Border Control officials may have made on their visas. One woman had her multiple entry permit pared back to single entry, so she may not be able to visit her American grandchildren again after this visit.”

Immigration law is not the focus of Justin Rostoff’s legal and professional interests, but his volunteer stint was satisfying nevertheless. “Compassion, diligence, drive, and resistance are crucial to the role of lawyers and advocates generally,” he said. Seeing Professor Haynes in action confirmed his admiration for her efforts. “She is an extraordinary professor and attorney and standing with her was an honor.”

Medya Aghaansari ’17, president of New England Law’s Immigration Law Association, rushed to the airport after being excused from her job at the law school library to assist Haynes with a client who required translation and assistance. Fluent in Farsi, Aghaansari translated for an Iranian electrical engineer who was entering the US as a permanent resident for the first time using his green card.

“Assisting those in need is why I came to law school,” said Aghaansari. “I chose immigration and criminal defense as a pathway to be able to help those who need it most.”

Aghaansari has taken a range of immigration-related courses and will earn the transcript designation that New England Law provides for those completing the Immigration Law Concentration. New England Law’s clinical program allowed her to gain hands-on experience with the Boston firm that later filed the nation's first lawsuit to halt the federal immigration ban.

The volunteers’ efforts were illuminated by television cameras against a backdrop of exhausted adults and joyful reunions. Demanding scenes like these can be part of immigration attorneys’ regular professional client interactions and are anticipated in Haynes’s Refugee and Asylum Law course, which covers the impacts of secondary trauma and emotional response. The course is distinguished from similar offerings by other law schools by its simulation format.

Educating the law school and wider communities

Haynes also directs New England Law’s Human Rights and Immigration Law Project, through which students have contributed to landmark pro bono cases on international human rights issues and refugee status; they can also participate in legal services immigration counseling. Haynes presented a program, “Executive Orders: Impacts on Immigration,” at the law school on February 1 to an overflow audience.

In fall 2016, Haynes founded the Sanctuary City Initiative, a national, grassroots group that discusses legal and constitutional issues and the public health, education, and law enforcement rationales that underpin the movement. She’s fielded calls from hundreds of cities, towns, and schools across the country and has responded with draft ordinances and legal reviews.

An evolving story with human stakes

The legal debate continues to evolve. On February 9 the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit refused to reinstate the travel ban after it had been blocked by a federal judge in Seattle the previous week, which could result in elevation of the controversy to the US Supreme Court.  

While keeping close watch on the process, Haynes remains fully focused on the affected people. “It’s likely there will continue to be considerable emergency work as we try to get those affected by the ban into the country before the case reaches the Supreme Court. There are already six Executive Orders that impact immigrants, and people urgently want legal advice to understand the real impacts they will have on real people.”

However things play out, New England Law students will benefit from Haynes’s direct connection to and deep knowledge of this high-stakes legal discipline and from their participation in efforts to help those affected.

Professor Dina Francesca Haynes

Human Rights and Immigration Law Project

Immigration Law Concentration

Immigration Law Pathway