Dallal fled ISIS but can't see her husband in the United States
Susan, an Iraqi-American, worries for relatives seeking US asylum
Mohammed Al Rawi's father was turned back while en route from Baghdad
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A Yazidi woman who fled ISIS counted on reuniting with her husband after he found asylum in the United States. But she was barred from boarding a flight out of Iraq.
A medical student in West Virginia is concerned his father won’t be able to return home after attending a funeral in Iran.
And an elderly Iraqi man’s trip to see his son and daughter was abruptly halted in Qatar when he was put back on a plane to Baghdad.
These are just a few of the families whose lives are in limbo after President Donald Trump’s executive order limiting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. They express fears for what the future will hold for them and their loved ones. Here are their stories:
Yazidi woman’s dreams dashed
Dallal and her husband – both Yazidis – barely escaped from the Iraqi town of Sinjar when ISIS stormed through the area, indiscriminately killing and kidnapping those in their path.
It marked the end of any notion that she and her family could build a future in Iraq.
Dallal is not her real name, but she said she is afraid she might jeopardize whatever chance remains to reach US soil by speaking out.
The ban and its impact
“My dream was to go to America because it’s the strongest country in the world,” she told CNN. “We feel that it’s safe. It’s the safest country. It has the strongest human rights.”
But with one signature, her dream of a new life in America was shattered.
Dallal’s husband was a translator for the US military and was allowed into the United States last summer after applying for asylum under the Special Immigrant Visa program.
Dallal was on her way to reunite with him when she received a document at the Irbil, Iraq, airport advising her she would not be allowed to travel to the United States.
“I was about to get on the plane, and they called my name,” she said. “I went and they said, ‘You can’t board, you can’t travel.’ I was shocked. I cried, ‘Why, why me?’ ”
’Everyone in the family is nervous now’
Susan, a 50-year old Iraqi-American in Chicago, will proudly tell you she worked at the US Embassy in Baghdad before fleeing to the United States in 2007 for the safety of herself and her two daughters.
However, she will not reveal her last name. In the current political climate, she fears she could be singled out and targeted.
Susan and her sister worked with the Americans in Iraq – and this made the entire family targets of “the terrorists, or the people working against the existence of the US forces in Iraq,” Susan said. As a result, they had to flee – and remain divided.
“Everyone in the family is nervous now, we don’t know what’s happening. The executive order itself is not clear. Everyone is worried; we don’t know what will happen,” Susan said.
After a rocket hit her house in early 2007, Susan realized she and her daughters had to leave. Susan’s mother and sister followed them to Virginia in 2008.
In 2014, her brother’s wife, who does not want to be named, came to the United States to file asylum papers with their three children. She has gone through the arduous interview process and still has not been granted asylum, Susan said, although she has a work permit.
Meanwhile, Susan’s brother, Ahmed, has been living alone in Jordan for three years, waiting to start the process of applying for asylum to join his family once his wife and children are granted it.
“He is the only brother we have. He is younger than me by three years. He is a good person; he is good to his family. I wish he could come here to live with his family,” Susan said.
“Always when they call their father, they cry because they miss him. … They are so attached between them as a family.”
Elderly father turned back to Baghdad
Mohammed Al Rawi’s 69-year-old father was on his way from Baghdad to visit his son and daughter in the United States, as he had done before, when suddenly everything changed.
His father was already in the air before Trump’s order was signed, Al Rawi said, but having got as far as Doha, Qatar, he was asked about his visa, which had been granted in the summer. A US official then said he couldn’t travel on, he said.
“They took his passport, they took his boarding ticket, and they had him with about 30 other people traveling on visas, actually some of them were on special immigrant visas,” said Al Rawi, a US citizen who lives in Long Beach, California, and works in local government. His sister, also a US citizen, is a math teacher in Boston.
“Imagine if you are – you know, applying for an asylum visa, you just get rid of everything. All you have is a suitcase – and these people were at the airport and just sent back,” Al Rawi said.
His father was put on a flight back to Baghdad, he said, and will face a struggle to be reunited with his baggage and get safely home from the airport through multiple checkpoints.
“I was expecting something, but not this. This stuff happens, you know, like one person makes a decision and messes up an entire population – this stuff happens in a Third World country,” Al Rawi said.
“Plus, my dad flew before the executive action was signed. He was already in the air to come here. It’s just such a chaos.”
Rethinking plans to educate children in US
Hadi Alhassani is now re-evaluating not just his business ventures but his children’s futures.
The 51-year-old father of five works for an international company that does business with the United States, a firm he won’t name for privacy reasons, but one he says has a $500 million investment with US space contractors.
Alhassani is from Yemen and currently resides in Saudi Arabia. He holds a visa for business travel, but his Yemeni nationality means he is now banned from boarding a flight to the United States.
His face-to-face business meetings on US soil are now on hold for at least the next 90 days.
“(I) was planning to travel early March for a Satellite Show in D.C. Now (I) can’t,” he told CNN via Twitter.
Alhassani is an alumnus of the University of Kansas and holds a bachelor’s degree in science and a master’s in aerospace engineering.