Stranded: Nowhere to go after Trump’s Muslim ban

We hear the stories of a Syrian refugee, a Sudanese doctor and an Iranian artist unable to reach or return to the US.

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People directly affected by Donald Trump’s immigration ban share their stories:

A Syrian refugee: ‘Every country is trying to get rid of us’

Nael Zaino was not allowed to board a plane flying from Istanbul in Turkey to Los Angeles International Airport in the US.

A Syrian, he had gone to Istanbul from Gaziantep and was hoping to join his refugee wife and son, an American citizen, in the US after receiving his visa on January 27, 2017. But that was the same day that US President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Syria.

Nael’s brother, Basileus Zeno, talks about their family’s ordeal:

Nael Zaino with his wife Leen Arafat and their son, who he has only met once [Photo courtesy of Leen Arafat]
Nael Zaino with his wife Leen Arafat and their son, who he has only met once [Photo courtesy of Leen Arafat]

“My brother, Nael Zaino, was banned from boarding his flight from Istanbul to LAX [Los Angeles International Airport]. He was supposed to join his wife, who is a refugee, and his child, who is an American citizen born in California last year, as a refugee through family reunification. However, at the gate he was told that all types of visas issued before the executive order are cancelled [his [visa] expires in March]. My brother saw his son only once in Turkey when they travelled to see him there.

READ MORE – Six other times the US has banned immigrants

The Turkish officer refused to let him [on to the plane]. My brother just came back to Gaziantep from Istanbul and he is planning to email the American embassy in Ankara to ask about his visa status. He works with the IOM, the International Organization for Migration, and has diplomatic residency in Turkey.

I, myself, have had a pending asylum application in the US, with my wife, since July 2013. I was doing my PhD in classical archaeology at the University of Damascus, but I lost it because of the war. I started again in the US and finished my master’s in political science at Ohio University, and currently I am pursuing a doctorate in political science at the University of Massachusetts/Amherst.

It’s a very painful experience to the extent you have no words to describe it.

As a Syrian in the US, history reminds me of the ghost of St Louis, the ship the US turned away, and it seems to me that we are all, not just Syrian refugees, but the 65.3 million people around the world, in a huge St Louis, and every country is trying to get rid of us. I think, the immigration system here, even before the recent executive orders, is torturing asylum seekers and refugees and tearing families apart.

That being said, I have to acknowledge that I saw the beauty of America in the hearts of people who are occupying airports to protest the cruel and unjust executive order.”

American whose Iranian wife is stranded in Australia: ‘This is all hands on deck’

Sarvin Haghighi with her husband, Andrew Culley [Photo courtesy of Andrew Culley] 
Sarvin Haghighi with her husband, Andrew Culley [Photo courtesy of Andrew Culley] 

Sarvin Haghighi is an Iranian green-card holder married to an American citizen and living in Chicago. She went to visit her family in Australia when the executive order was signed and is now in legal limbo, unable to return to her husband, Andrew Culley, who speaks of their ordeal:

“I am a US citizen. My wife, Sarvin Haghighi, is a permanent resident with an Iranian passport. She has been stranded in Australia while visiting her family. We just went through three and a half years of “vetting” by the DHS [Department of Homeland Security] to secure her green card. We live in Chicago and Sarvin is a resident artist at Zhou B Art Centre in Bridgeport and a talented artist with exhibitions worldwide focusing on blending Persian calligraphy with messages of love from Rumi.

The irony in all of this is that Sarvin came to the US to enjoy the personal and artistic freedoms that her nation of birth could not guarantee. It’s heartbreaking that a person who has contributed so much to her adopted country is being turned away. Sarvin is a generous and beautiful soul that frankly this country could use more of.

READ MORE – Iran: Trump’s Muslim ban ‘will rip our family apart’

We are just local Chicagoans trying to build a life for ourselves. It’s especially difficult for my wife because her family is scattered across the world  – Iran, Australia, Canada. All of these restrictions affect my ability to visit Iran, her parents’ ability to visit us here.

And I feel that my putting up the message that the US is not accepting of immigrants, refugees and Muslims, it will no longer get the best and brightest students, innovators and entrepreneurs. More importantly this weekend is one big recruitment poster for ISIS [also known as ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant].

I encourage everyone to please call their US senator, congressman and local politicians today. I also encourage everyone to go to any airport that lands international flights and share your protest voice. This is “all hands on deck”… it will all help Sarvin get back to her hometown, Chicago.”

A Sudanese doctor: ‘This is going to affect my patients’

Dr Kamal Fadlalla is now stranded in Sudan after returning there to visit family [Photo courtesy of Kamal Fadlalla] 
Dr Kamal Fadlalla is now stranded in Sudan after returning there to visit family [Photo courtesy of Kamal Fadlalla] 

Dr Kamal Fadlalla is a second-year resident in internal medicine at Interfaith Medical Centre in New York. He was visiting his family in Sudan when Trump signed the executive order.

He quickly bought a ticket to the US, but was denied entry to the plane just minutes before boarding. He is now stuck in Sudan, unable to return to his patients or to complete his residency, which he fought hard to get. His plans to take the Medical Board Exam next year are now up in the air. His H-1B visa (non-immigrant visa for foreign workers in specialty occupations) is valid for three months. He tells Al Jazeera what this could mean for his future:

READ MORE – Trump’s immigration ban – ‘US is the only home we know’

“I’m a second year resident and I’ve been working in New York for the last 20 months. This was my first time leaving the US to visit my family after almost two years of not seeing them. I came to Sudan for two weeks to spend time with my family, my mother, my sisters. Everything was fine until Friday when my colleagues at the hospital administration told me I was in imminent danger of being denied entry to the US. So they advised me to come back as soon as possible. I immediately cancelled my vacation and booked my flight.

On Saturday, I went to Khartoum airport, where everything went fine. Thirty minutes before boarding, me and another passenger were told we would not be allowed to get on the plane. They cancelled our tickets and I tried to explain to them that I have a valid visa; they said the order is very clear. I waited in the airport for three hours, where I met another guy who had been returned from Doha, another two guys returned from New York, and a woman with her children returned from Dubai.

READ MORE – What is wrong with Trump’s immigration ban?

In the middle of the night, I drove home, two hours away from Khartoum. I called the hospital, they said they are trying to figure out what to do. This is going to affect my future, my colleagues, my patients. I’m just waiting, following media [reports], contacting my lawyer and colleagues. I’m waiting and worried about my future.

In the internal medicine programme I’m in, it takes three years to be board certified. The board exam is at the end of the residency, and if there is any delay, it may affect my ability to sit the exam.

This will also affect the future of many other junior doctors here in Sudan who were planning to start their residency this year [in July]. They spent a lot of time and effort, and went through many interviews to get selected to “match” with a hospital to study and work in the US.”

Source: Al Jazeera