Texas attorneys offer legal help to detainees at DFW airport

Attorneys at DFW working to fight order

DALLAS -- Just outside the international arrivals gate, there's a whole different sort of law firm taking shape in Terminal D at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. 

There are signs posted in English and Arabic offering legal assistance. Lawyers are working in shifts and volunteering pro bono to help those impacted by President Donald Trump's travel ban affecting those from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

It's the same spot where hundreds protested over the weekend.

“We have lawyers on the ground, lawyers on the front lines that are ready to stick their neck out and protect these American constitutional rights,” said Chris Hamilton, one of the attorneys heading up the new effort they're calling “DFW Detained.”

Shortly before 6 p.m., Hamilton said they were aware of at least nine people being detained – four of them had been held for more than four hours, including a couple and a small child who came in Monday morning on a flight from Dubai.

“The airport is claiming that no one is being detained,” he said. “They are claiming that people are being processed.”

News 8 spoke with several worried family members who had been waiting in excess of three hours for family members who were legal permanent residents from either Sudan or Iraq.

One of them was an elderly woman who was returning from Dubai, where she had been taking care of her cancer-stricken husband.

Hamilton, a Dallas civil trial lawyer, was among dozens of attorneys inspired to take action after seeing the scenes of chaos unfolding in the nation's airports.

“We have a situation in this country where are airports essentially were turned into a series of Guantanamos, where people are being held with no information regarding who's being held and no access to counsel and that's a huge problem,” Hamilton said.

Over the weekend, at least 13 people from those seven countries were detained at DFW Airport.

One of them legal permanent resident from Sudan and her 11-month-old U.S.-born baby.

Another was a grandmother with epilepsy. A third was a man who had obtained a special immigrant visa after working for the U.S. Embassy in Iraq.

“He had been employed by the U.S. government and was treated like a terrorist or a criminal in this airport,” Hamilton said. “The stories are coming out all across the country.”

The legal effort sprung up over the weekend within hours. Hamilton paid for the hotel conference room they used over the weekend that served as a “War Room.” Lawyers began showing up at the airport on their own. More than a 100 are involved in the effort.

Soon, they had organized themselves, set up a Facebook page and a Twitter account and an email address, dfwdetained@gmail.com.

They’ve also set up a GoFundMe to help with expenses. So far, more than $10,000 has been raised.

The lawyers have divided themselves into teams. More lawyers were continuing to show up.

“We have immigration lawyers,” he said. “We have civil lawyers. We have criminal lawyers. We have everybody you can think of.”

Some are working directly with the families who’ve been detained.  Others are doing research and preparing to file emergency court papers seeking the release of those who have been detained. Some are working with the national groups of attorneys have sprung up all over the country to battle the president’s order.

“This is the first time I’ve ever felt that I just needed to heed the call of action,” says Paul Wingo, a local personal injury attorney. “This is kind of the reason why I got a law degree."

Inside the Grand Hyatt attached to the terminal, they’ve set up what they’re calling a “War Room.” At the moment it’s inside a hotel room. It’s a mobile nerve center of the local ongoing battle.

“We are not going away until they stop detaining people illegally at this airport,” Hamilton said.

Attorneys are encouraging anyone with a family member detained to get in touch with them for help. They are finding out that people have been detained through from worried friends and family of international travelers.

Just after 1 p.m. Monday, Hamilton got word that a couple and their small child on a morning flight from Dubai were being detained.

“It's ridiculous,” he said. “It's absolutely ridiculous. We're detaining families with children coming into this country lawfully that have permission to come to this country. It's not acceptable.”

Hamilton said that he has been told that the family will be released soon. He vowed that if it did not happen soon that they would be filing emergency writs in federal court seeking their release.

Copyright 2016 WFAA


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