Brothers were detained and forced to sign papers revoking US residency they neither read nor understood and placed on flight back to Ethiopia, lawyers say
Two Yemeni brothers detained by US immigration officials on Saturday were unlawfully coerced into relinquishing their green cards and forced to return to Ethiopia just hours after Donald Trump signed an executive order banning travel from seven Muslim majority countries, a lawsuit has claimed.
Tareq Aziz, 21, and Ammar Aziz, 19, were handcuffed, detained and forced to sign papers that they neither read nor understood and then placed on a flight back to Addis Ababa hours after arriving at Dulles international airport in Virginia on Saturday morning, lawyers contend. The brothers were en route to Michigan to reunite with their father, Aqel Aziz, a US citizen based in Flint.
Both had been granted permanent residency after applying for green cards at the US embassy in Djibouti, the East African nation to where tens of thousands of Yemenis have fled during the countrys bloody civil war.
The Aziz brothers, the lawsuit claims, were on Saturday forced to sign an I-407 form, which abandoned their claims to lawful permanent residency in the United States, by Customs and Border Protection who falsely claimed that if they did not sign the form they would be barred from entering the United States for five years.
The lawsuit suggests that up to 60 other individuals with permanent residency in the United States may have been unlawfully coerced into signing the forms while detained in US airports as well. Trump has said 109 people were detained in total as a result of the order.
The brothers signed the forms and were removed from the country just hours before a federal judge in Brooklyn placed a nationwide stay on deportations for people who arrived in the US with valid visas but were prevented from clearing customs after Trumps order.
Signed on Friday, Trumps executive order denies refugees, immigrants and travelers from certain Muslim-majority countries, including Yemen, entry to the United States, and indefinitely closes US borders to refugees fleeing the humanitarian crisis in war-torn Syria.
Lawyers for the two brothers told the Guardian that the pair were on Monday sleeping rough at the Addis Ababa Bole international airport in Ethiopia. With patchy cellphone service, they were trying to communicate with US lawyers.
They were given permanent, lawful immigration status in the US, then everything was thrown into disarray on Saturday morning, said Paul Hughes, one of the US-based attorneys representing the pair. Now they are sleeping on chairs at the airport in Addis Ababa, with their backpacks, utterly bewildered. We are having trouble being able to talk to them ourselves.
Hughes added that the men speak English but were not given access to legal advice at Dulles. The lawsuit contends that both brothers were forced into paying for their own return flights to Addis Ababa.
Advocates working on behalf of the brothers argued their case revealed a disturbing pattern of behaviour by Customs and Border Protection officials.
We believe the agency unlawfully coerced our clients, two Yemeni brothers, and others into signing administrative forms to waive their immigration rights, said Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, legal director of the immigrant advocacy program of the Legal Aid Justice Center, in a statement.
Their signatures were not voluntary.
The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to a request for comment.