All detained at Atlanta airport cleared, released after flying back from Iran

ATLANTA — Federal immigration officials on Saturday detained four lawful permanent residents from Iran at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, citing one of President Trump’s latest executive orders, according to Sarah Owings, an immigration attorney who is working with their families.

A man, woman and 10-year-old child from one family and a grandmother from another family, Owings said, were being held after returning from vacations in Iran Saturday afternoon. They all live in the Atlanta area.

The immigration lawyer said the group had been detained since 12:30 at the Customs and Border Protection area of the International Terminal.

Channel 2's Matt Johnson has been in contact with lawyers for the families.

Johnson was told that the family of three was released around 7 p.m.

Georgia congressmen John Lewis and Hank Johnson went to the airport to meet with Customs and Border Protections officials.

They learned that 11 immigrants in total were detained and two were still being held Saturday night.

“This kind of drastic activity is bad for America,” Hank Johnson said.

Those who had been detained as a result of the president’s order do not have to leave the country, according to an emergency stay a federal judge issued Saturday night.

“We cannot continue to let this happen,” Lewis said.

Lawyers said they weren't being given much information.

“These are people who live here — who have houses, dogs, cars,” Owings said as she waited with their anxious relatives in the international terminal. “We are being stonewalled. We are not being given any information beyond the number and email address for the public affairs officer” from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.


Mansour Kenareh waited six hours for his brother, his brother’s wife and their 10-year-old daughter while they were detained and eventually released. He said the family has had green cards for more than a year.

“I didn’t know such a critical organization can collapse overnight,” he said.

Owings said the administration did not properly brief customs workers nationwide.

“They just got this order and got told to go make it happen and that’s why things are so unclear,” she said.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday.

The executive order signed by President Trump calls for suspension of immigration from Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Iran and Libya.

Muslim refugees are also to not be admitted while the government reviews the application process.

Local Muslim leaders said the executive order did not come as a surprise and they are prepared to file a lawsuit as soon as next week.

"When you write an executive order that benefits one faith over others, when you write an executive order that discriminates people, when you write an executive order that breaks up families in America that is going to be challenged. It's a moral problem. It's a political problem and it will not stand," said CAIR (Council on American–Islamic Relations) spokesperson Edward Mitchell.

Lewis said he will consult with the office of congressional affairs about the executive order next week in Washington.

“That’s not right. That’s not fair. We can treat human beings better,” he said.

Trump’s executive order suspends all refugees from entering the U.S. for 120 days, and bars those from war-torn Syria indefinitely. It also blocks entry to citizens from seven Muslim nations.

Information from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was used in this report.