by Jingnan Huo
While protesters against President Trump’s immigration ban rally outside Terminal Five of O’Hare International Airport, inside the terminal, by McDonald’s, on rows of tables, are about 20 lawyers working to help families and friends of immigrants who have had trouble at the border.
“Yesterday we had 18 people,” says Kelli A. Fennell, immigration lawyer at Sarikas Law Group LLC. “Currently there’s one person we are aware of and she’s been held since 11 a.m.”
According to Fennell, the lawyers came together through social media (there is a Facebook group). “Some of us have met in law school, some of us have working relationships, some I have never met before.”
The group materialized so spontaneously that no attorney interviewed remembers the name of the Facebook group that mobilized them, nor has the group set up a hotline.
“Using an executive order to scapegoat Muslims is not acceptable, it’s very un-American. Also just target people from specific countries, it’s not going to make America safe, it’s not going to help national security. What they should be doing is focusing their resources on people who are actual threats,” says Fennell.
As to the executive order, “we are still in a wait-and-see mode”, says Fennell. She is confident that lawyers will keep fighting for the rescission of the executive order. “There are people who are willing to come out here the next day, the next day and the next day until this stops.”
Non-immigration law lawyers stand at exits of International arrivals and talk to anyone that look nervous or anxious if they have been waiting for more than two hours.
Husband and wife Nate and Yesha Hoeppner both show up. Nate Hoeppner is an in-house counsel, and Yesha is a law firm associate and speaks Urdu. Yesha Hoeppner expects to deliver in five weeks.
Yesha Hoeppner takes notes about messages conveyed by a friend of an arrival. “He said he was told that they can’t make phone calls,” the woman says. A bit later she learns that the arrival has been released.
Iranian American Rana Hashemi works in finance, and she has provided office equipment to the lawyers upon hearing of their mobilization. She has also signed up to volunteer because she knows the Iranian language of Farsi. “I’ve been here an hour, an hour and a half. I need to go home now but I told that they can call me day or night,” says Hashemi.