Officials watch for any travel restriction effects at Atlanta airport

4:53 p.m Friday, Sept. 22, 2017 Local

As President Donald Trump’s administration prepares to soon announce a new set of travel restrictions on visitors to the United States to replace the existing travel ban, local officials are looking out for any potential impact on travelers arriving at the Atlanta airport.

At the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson International officials are monitoring the situation, which could unfold over the weekend.

When the first travel ban was abruptly implemented in January, it caused chaos, confusion and a massive protest at Hartsfield-Jackson. It also sparked legal challenges.

The rollout of a revised travel ban in June was smoother, but volunteers were at the Atlanta airport’s international terminal to offer free legal help.

Edward Ahmed Mitchell, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said his organization may have attorneys on hand at the airport again if necessary.

“If the order only impacts people who do not already have visas to travel here, then nobody should be caught up at the airport,” Mitchell said. But, “if the order affects those already in transit like the first order did, then chaos could erupt and we’d need our attorneys at the airport.”

Mitchell said his organization will also be watching to see if the restrictions are “motivated by legitimate concerns about national security, or are they motivated by anti-Muslim bigotry.”

Trump administration officials told reporters Friday that the new security standards are “to protect Americans” and that restrictions would apply to countries that did not meet the standards.

Azadeh Shahshahani, legal and advocacy director for the group Project South, said her group was already planning events for the lead-up to an Oct. 10 Supreme Court hearing on the travel ban. “We continue to remain opposed to any ban based on people’s religion or background,” she said.

Whether the group will hold events at the airport depends on details of the new travel restrictions, Shahshahani said.

With the travel ban implemented in June, “it turned out that most of the restrictions were applied overseas at the consular level in terms of issuing visas to people, so there may or may not be detentions at the airport,” Shahshahani said. “We just have to wait and see what the administration plans to do.”

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