As debate intensifies over President Donald Trump’s executive order that essentially halts immigration from seven Muslim countries there are a number of complicated stories emerging that show how some people and families have been affected thus far.
First, there’s the Assali family, which arrived in Philadelphia from Qatar on Saturday and, due to the order, was sent back the the Middle East — an event that unfolded right before federal Judge Ann Donnelly stepped in later that day to block Trump’s order.
NPR spoke with Sarah Assali, who was set to meet her uncles, aunts and cousins — Christian refugees from Syria — at the airport on Saturday when she received a call from U.S. Customs and Border Protection telling her the airport meeting wouldn’t be happening, NPR reported.
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Assali explained that her family members had been working to come to America for the past 14 years.
“My dad originally came, you know, for a better future, for his children, for his family, and he just wanted to bring his brothers and sisters over to have the same opportunities that he had to attend better schools, have, you know, more opportunities,” she said.
But when her relatives arrived in the U.S. Saturday, she said they were taken to a holding cell and told that they must return to the Middle East immediately or that they would lose their visas and wouldn’t be able to come back to the U.S. for five years. So, the family ended up back in Syria — the war-torn country they had left in an effort to seek a better life.
The Assali family’s situation could be a tough one moving forward, too. Assali’s father reportedly purchased a second home here in the U.S. to help his family settle, which will now lay vacant. And, beyond that, the family had already liquidated many of their assets in the Middle East, assuming they would be coming to America to start anew, NPR reported.
“They sold their cars, so they could afford plane tickets to come here. They got, you know — they sold all of their gold and any valuables that they had,” Assali said. “They didn’t expect to have to go back. I mean, luckily, they did have a home to go back to still. But they don’t have anything else.”
The Assali family isn’t alone. According to the Associated Press, the immigration ban has also impacted some longtime U.S. citizens who were traveling abroad when Trump signed it into action.
Consider family physician Dr. Sarwa Aldoori from Bakersfield, California, who has lived in the U.S. since 1996. She had gone on an eight-day religious pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, and was pulled aside at customs, tearfully telling the AP that she was essentially held up for nine hours before finally being reunited with her husband.
“It’s because you were born in Iraq,” an officer reportedly told Addoori.
There’s another story about a Syrian woman named Sahar Algonaimi who was on her way to the U.S. to see her sick mother and to help her sister care for the elderly woman. But Algonaimi, whose mom suffers from cancer, was put on a plane back to Saudi Arabia after arriving in the U.S., the AP reported.
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She had a valid visa and had been to the U.S. just last year. Algonaimi later claimed that officials had her sign papers she didn’t understand after she deplaned in the U.S. — papers that canceled her visa before she was sent back overseas.
“I really can’t put it in words how much sadness I feel and the sense of injustice we feel,” her sister, Nour Ulayyet, told the AP.
You can read other stories here. Trump’s immigration order bans people from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and Somalia from entering the U.S. for 90 days; it also suspends the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days (and the Syrian program until further notice) until it can be reassessed to ensure safety and security measures for those entering America.
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