RALEIGH — On Jan. 28, the Khadras had reached their last feasible option for being reunited with their 3-year-old daughter — applying for a visitor visa.
When Abdallh Khadra, who is Syrian, signed on to the U.S. Embassy of Jordan to schedule a time for a visa interview for his daughter Muna on Jan. 29, a message appeared: “One or more applicants are currently ineligible to schedule.”
“Why?” Abdallh said. “Because of Trump’s order. This was our last hope.”
President Donald Trump issued an executive order on Jan. 27 aimed to protect the U.S. from foreign terrorists entering the country.
The executive order states citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen — seven Muslim-majority countries previously deemed “countries of concern” by the Obama administration — cannot enter the United States for the next 90 days and suspends the admission of all refugees for 120 days.The order was met with confusion, varying interpretations and lack of preparation among agencies.
Abdallh came to the U.S. in 2011 on a work visa. In 2013, his two daughters — Sana, 5, and Muna, 3 — and his wife, Hanan, moved to the U.S. Abdallh’s work visa, however, expired. They are currently living in Raleigh as pending political asylum seekers.
In February 2016, the family decided to apply for emergency travel to visit aging family members who had fled from Syria and were living in Lebanon. The family sent in their application in one envelope expecting approval for three months later. Muna received her travel approval in July for one and a half months. The remainder of the family received their approval later, but Muna’s travel time had passed.
The family decided to travel after contacting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and ensuring that Muna’s approval would be renewed or extended, and it was in the mail.
Abdallh and Sana traveled to Lebanon on Oct. 19, and Hanan, Muna and the Khadras’ newborn son, Muhammad, who is an American citizen, joined them two days later.
“After two days, we decided my wife with Muna and Muhammad will join me,” Abdallh said. “We took this risk, but we never expected that the document would not be sent, would not be approved and would not be renewed.”
Abdallh and Sana returned to the U.S. on Oct. 25 because the travel dates were to expire. Hanan, Muna and Muhammad remained in Lebanon for 25 days to wait for Muna’s return to be approved.
But it never came. They had to leave Muna in Lebanon on Nov. 18.
“She keeps crying,” Abdallh said. “She calls us every time and sends videos crying. She feels like we abandoned her, like we don’t love her. She keeps saying ‘I love you’ and ‘I miss you.'”
After talking to a lawyer, the Khadras discovered their two options — apply for a visitor visa or apply for humanitarian parole, which costs $1,700. Humanitarian parole provides individuals temporary entry to the U.S. for urgent humanitarian reasons or for significant public benefit.
They began the application of the visa on Jan. 26, the day before Trump’s executive order was signed. When they went to schedule an appointment for a visa interview on Jan. 29, they were ineligible.
“It does not make any sense that you stop people from these seven countries just because they are Muslims,” Abdallh said. “This is against the Constitution, I think, because he’s judging people based on their religion.”
When asked about Trump’s order, N.C. GOP chairman Robin Hayes said it is not about religion.
“There are dozens of countries that are Muslim-dominant countries and they are not on the list, so it is an irresponsible gross misrepresentation to say it is about religion,” Hayes said.
Several states have issued challenges to Trump’s executive order. North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein is reviewing cases filed by other state attorneys general.
“The human consequences are terrible — an Iraqi translator who served with American troops for a decade detained at JFK airport upon entry to the United States; a Clemson professor born in Iran who has a green card on the way back home to South Carolina from visiting family abroad yanked off a plane in Dubai; an Israeli Jew born in Yemen who has a green card, uncertain if he can return home to the United States; a Syrian refugee family who had been vetted and was booked on a flight tomorrow to Chicago denied entry,” Stein said in a Jan. 29 statement. “The list goes on.”
The next option for Abdallh and his family is to contact the American Civil Liberties Union, a main opponent of the travel ban, to help get humanitarian parole.
The ACLU of North Carolina filed a request on Thursday with three other ACLU affiliates to examine Trump administration officials’ interpretation and enforcement of the president’s ban.
“President Trump’s unconstitutional immigration ban has disrupted people’s lives and spread fear and uncertainty throughout our communities,” Irena Como, ACLU of North Carolina staff attorney, said. “It is more important than ever for immigration and customs officials to be accountable to the public.”