It started with a pizza.
In the days following President Trump’s executive order restricting immigration, Seattle freelance writer Kelly Clay felt called to action. She wanted to do something to help the lawyers camped out at airports, offering legal services for people who found themselves unexpectedly impacted by the travel ban.
At a Facebook friend’s suggestion, she found a pizza place that would deliver to San Francisco International Airport and used Twitter to coordinate the hand-off with another friend nearby.
“Everything took off from there,” she said.
Twitter users began rallying around #HelpTheLawyers, coordinating deliveries of coffee, food, WiFi hotspots, and other essentials. Clay synced up with Natalie Woods Lyda, an Atlanta-based human rights and media law specialist and Sara Kubik, a technology and legal marketing consultant out of Michigan. They launched Help the Lawyers as a formal organization to centralize the activism taking place on social media.
— Kelly Clay (@kellyhclay) January 29, 2017
Clay, Lyda, and Kubik also created a GoFundMe campaign to deliver “food for clients and volunteer attorneys, defray airport parking and transportation expenses, secure meeting space and internet access, and purchase necessary supplies.”
Their donations have supported legal teams at airports around the country, working to help people detained after Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order temporarily blocked citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S.
What. a. week!
We are all volunteers here at @helpthelawyers
Donations to help keep us going are very appreciated. https://t.co/LWspbMt6gq
— Help the Lawyers (@HelpTheLawyers) February 4, 2017
ABAesq: RT AllMattNYT: Lawyers and their food stash at the makeshift legal clinic set up dulles_airport pic.twitter.com/cRhwehA7Yi
— LawyersLaunchpad (@lawyerpreneurs) January 30, 2017
On Friday, a federal judge authorized a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO), instructing immigration and border personnel to stop implementing Trump’s travel ban until it could be litigated in court. The TRO was part of a lawsuit brought by Washington state and Minnesota.
“Since the TRO, things have slowed down, but the organization and connecting between the legal teams are drastically improving,” said Clay. “Additionally, most legal teams are not leaving airports due to the uncertainty of the legal proceedings.”
That uncertainty comes from an ongoing legal battle between the federal government and the states. Over the weekend, the Department of Justice (DOJ) sought an emergency stay on the TRO, which the court swiftly rejected. The DOJ is expected to respond Monday afternoon; the escalating legal skirmish could elevate the lawsuit to the Supreme Court quickly.
Update: Lyda and Kubik have separated from Help the Lawyers but are continuing fundraising and volunteer efforts.