- Date: January 11, 2015
It was 12:48 a.m. Saturday morning, just hours after President Trump signed the immigration travel ban, when I heard a text message alert. I was half-asleep in my Brooklyn apartment and almost didn’t pick up the phone, assuming it was a friend at a bar or a party wanting to meet, when I was in for the night.
Not only was it not a social call, it assured that I was not spending the night at home. The message was from Omar Jadwat, a lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union, saying that an Iraqi refugee had been detained at Kennedy Airport. I had contacted him — maybe even pestered him a little — several times over the last week about visa holders getting hassled while trying to enter the country, and now it was happening to a man named Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi.
Mr. Alshawi’s wife was anxiously waiting for him in Houston. They had heard he was about to be deported.
Scrambling at a moment’s notice and being on call 24 hours a day is part of the job. But, though the travel ban was a big deal, it still isn’t every day you call a colleague after midnight, especially when you aren’t really sure if there’s a story yet. At first I was relieved that Houston bureau chief Manny Fernandez was awake until I heard why: He’d had an excrutiatingly long workday just behind him, including a five-hour drive to Laredo and another five hours back. He had only just gotten home at around 11 p.m. his time.