Courtesy of Joe Shaeffer '92

(From left to right) Attorneys David Whedbee, La Rond Baker, Andrew Chan, and Joe Shaeffer '92 inside the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

January 29, 2017

Cornell Alum Persuades Federal Judge to Halt Deportation of Two Men at Seattle Airport

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As protesters swarmed airports around the country Saturday night to denounce President Donald Trump’s executive order banning citizens of seven predominantly-Muslim countries from entering the U.S., a Cornell alumnus was working within the legal system.

Joe Shaeffer ’92, an attorney in Seattle, worked with the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project to keep two men who were detained at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport from being deported.

Both unnamed men, who Shaeffer said had visitor visas, faced possible deportation after Trump signed an executive order Friday afternoon banning citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the U.S. in the next 90 days and indefinitely banned Syrian refugees.

One of the men, who is from Sudan and resides in the United Arab Emirates, was visiting the U.S. to attend an engineering conference in Las Vegas, while the other man, a citizen of Yemen, was flying to visit his family, according to a statement from the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.

After taking the light rail to the airport, Shaeffer worked with a team of seven lawyers to keep the two visitors from being deported. A third traveler who had been detained at the airport was deported before the team of lawyers arrived, Shaeffer said.

Shaeffer took sworn written statements from two congresswomen and Port of Seattle officials and helped coordinate communications between the attorneys filing the petition and those in the airport, which was filled with more than 1,000 protesters.

Shortly after 6 p.m., U.S. District Court Judge Thomas S. Zilly ’62 in Seattle granted an emergency stay of removal, prohibiting the U.S. from deporting the two men detained at Sea-Tac airport.

“I am happy to announce that the two men at Sea-Tac who were nearly excluded and deported have finally been released,” Shaeffer wrote in a Facebook post Sunday morning.

Shaeffer told The Sun that he joined his law firm — MacDonald, Hoague & Bayless — primarily because of its commitment to civil rights and social justice.

“I joined them certainly with the mission of continuing that objective, and I’ve always been passionate about social justice, so this is just giving me an avenue to do that,” he said.

Everybody coming from overseas already has to show proof of entry into the U.S., Shaeffer said, noting that the two men in Seattle had “already been vetted before they arrived.”

“Through a crazy series [of] events, and with the incredible leadership of … Northwest Immigrants Rights Project and the ACLU, we succeeded in getting an order signed blocking the deportation temporarily,” he said.

Judge Zilly set a hearing for Feb. 3 to determine whether or not to lift the stay he ordered, but Shaeffer said that hearing may not be required since the two men have already been released from the airport.