Although we may be considered the “land of the free,” America is in no way perfect when it comes to accepting others seeking refuge in our borders. As early as the country was established, we have always thrived upon exclusivity and under the great facade of “the melting pot,” yet we are heavily flawed still. And, now with the new order passed by President Trump at the beginning of the year, it seems as though history is repeating itself in the worst way possible.
Here are the stories of present and past individuals and families that have been denied passage into our country, who not only come here to flee from persecution and destruction, but who simply and genuinely wish to add to the quality of the country.
Aicha & Abdullah Hijazi
Syrian natives Aicha and Abdullah Hijazi are the proud parents of Prince George county director Haitham Hijazi and U.S. green card holders of 20 years. But, thanks to Trump’s new order ban on Syrian natives, the elderly couple may run into some trouble when attempting to return back to their lives in the U.S.
With their 90-day Saudi visitor visas about to expire and the drama with the new orders being put into effect, Haitham has held off on sharing the news of the temporary ban with his parents due to their old age. He is hoping that by the time the couple is to return, the logistics will be worked out and the ban will have subsided as it was a temporary plan to crack down on security regarding foreign visitors specifically from certain countries. However, only time will tell where this sweet couple will be forced to remain once the 120 day policy is resolved.
American citizen and recent Clemson Honors graduate Nazanin Zinouri was denied passage back to the U.S. for a week thanks to Trump’s new order. After traveling back to her native country Tehran, Zinouri claims that no one warned of the pending actions stating “I still can’t believe this actually happened. I didn’t see this coming any time soon, so this is definitely beyond whatever I could imagine” to CNN.
After attempting to rush back home when finding out that Trump had already signed the order, she made it to Dubai but was sent back to Tehran for the next week. Out of frustration regarding the maltreatment and genocide that was she experiencing, her Facebook post regarding the unfortunate matter went viral. Zinouri has since returned to South Carolina to resume her regular life, but the experience that she went through did not go unnoticed.
The Kohja Family
With what supposed to mark the Khoja family’s final transition into American citizenship, the Turkey native group was detained at the JFK airport instead. Immediately sent back to Istanbul following the order signing, the Kojha family realized that they may never be able to experience “the American dream.”
“At first I thought it was a joke, that she was joking with me,” said Mahmoud Khoja, 58, remembering the phone call telling them their flights had been canceled. “I just froze,” he told the Washington Post. Fortunately for the Kohja’s, a week after their temporary refuge was refused, they were granted entry into the states after undergoing two years of security vetting throughout government agencies.
After boarding a flight from her native Iran, Shahin Hassanpour had the unfortunate wake up call that she was considered a refugee in eyes of the American law, temporarily at least.
Once landing in the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, she was detained for an entire day under airport security pending approval under the new order. After receiving her American visa in September 2016 and with the help of Facebook, Hassanpour was released and considered a “non-threat.” Due to her poor health from breast cancer, her 43-year-old son Behzad claimed that Shahin was on the verge of tears during the unfortunate incident.
Seattle resident, Iraqi native and Facebook employee Murtadha Al-Tameemi found himself the victim of Trump’s new order when he tried to return to the country from Vancouver. He claimed that he got a panicked call from his lawyer revealing Trump’s pending order and his immediate need to get back into America before it went into effect.
But, Al-Tameemi wasn’t about to miss his younger brother’s acting debut that he traveled to Canada for. Once Murtadha made it to his flight five hours in advance, he was sent to the secondary inspection room that was packed with Arabic people; all before the order was even formally signed. After waiting around in the airport’s immigration room, Al-Tameemi was granted passage back into the states, but finds the entire situation very un-American.
Canadian citizen Fadwa Alaoui found herself the victim of Trump’s ban when she tried to go shopping in Vermont; an activity she had been engaging in for 20 years. After being held for four hours in supervision, the Moroccan native was forced to turn around and head back to Quebec.
Questioned about her practices, her mosque and her personal opinion of Trump and his policy, Alaoui explained she was completely unaware of the recent news regarding the ban due to her busy life. But, what set it over the top was the videos she had on her phone praying. Next thing she knew she was being handed a form that read: “”Withdrawal of application for admission. Subject is inadmissible to the United States. An immigrant not in possession of a valid and expired immigrant’s visa.”
Hameed Khalid Darweesh
Once an interpreter for the U.S. Army, Hameed Khalid Darweesh and fellow immigrant Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi were detained at JFK airport due to President Trump’s 90 day refugee hold that went into effect immediately after he took office.
When attempting to come back into the country from Iran, he was held under airport detention up to 17 hours, still claiming to love America as the land of the free. He even claimed to like Trump, but seemed confused as to what he was being held for policy-wise. Sadly, Alshawi has not been so fortunate to be released from the airport’s custody, but just like Darweesh, Alshawi is an American citizen with family in the country.
Despite their 15-year long struggle to make it to the States, the Assalis traveled all the way from Beirut to Philadelphia just to be put back on a plane to Doha the minute they arrived. Relatives of the family that safely made it in years ago received a personal call that their families would not be joining them in the American dream thanks to Trump’s ban.
On top of being held under supervision, the Syrian families were not even allowed to use their phones or internet while being held. It doesn’t matter that a house was purchased, furnished and ready for the persecuted Christians, never will they know the life of safety and refuge here in the States due to this outlandish policy passing.
Voyage of the Damned
In an attempt to shine some light on the possible horrendous outcomes of Trump’s decision to exclude refugees from the seven Muslim-majority countries, Twitter user Russel Neis took to the social media channel to remind the world of the “voyage of the damned.”
Aboard the MS St. Louis during WWII, 900 Jewish refugees sought safety in their journey to America in order to escape the grips of the Nazi regime but were turned away at the border. In honor of remembering each individual that provided documentation, Neis posted inspirational pictures of each of the immigrants, hopeful for a life without war and persecution.
The names and faces haunted Twitter feeds worldwide, exploring the idea that not only had this devastation already occurred, but that it was about to repeat itself. Margot, Max and Joachim Hirsch, Werner Stein, Leopold Dingfelder, Jakob and Irmgard Koppel, Erich, Willi and Lore Dublon — the list goes on and on with the names, faces and location of death that these poor individual immigrants suffered as there was said to be 250 that died shortly after the failed journey.
In an attempt to rob Trump of his hatred if only for a minute, Neis simply wanted us to see and know the lives of those lost when turned away at our borders. To understand that, just like the Syrian refugees we are turning our backs on along with all of the Muslim-oriented countries, these are human beings at the end of the day. But, it won’t be enough.
In 2015, a group of 27 Chaldeans, or Iraqi Christians, were turned away at the American border; 22 of whom were held in detention inside the city of San Diego and sent back to Iraq. With hopes to flee the terrifying grip of ISIS, Chaldeans have been aiming at repopulating within the states, but mainly in Southern California areas entering through the Mexican border.
Ever since 2015 only 727 Chaldeans have been accepted which is a mere fraction of the 4,200 attempting to rebuild their lives in America. Due to the U.S. policy that “dictates required proof of being directly persecuted,” many are not able to provide the necessary evidence to build their case as refugees, sadly.
To exclude those that pose actual threats to the country is one thing, but when innocent children are knowingly being turned away from safe lives here in the States, something is significantly wrong. Due to this temporary ban, even children as young as five years old are being held in detention in airports all over the country. What is happening?
It was reported that a five-year-old was traveling on his own from Iran to rejoin his mother, who like him is a U.S. citizen, but the child was detained nonetheless at the Dulles airport. Regardless of the formal warning that Maryland’s Sen. Chris Van Hollen gave for this individual child in advance of his arrival, authorities decided to hold him anyways.
Taking It Too Far
Finally reunited with his mother, it was clear that this ban was not going to exclude even children from what UNICEF is calling “the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II,” according to Salon Magazine.
But, besides how far this ban is traveling to keep those out of the nation that he sees as threats, even child refugees located in Latin America are suffering. Those that seek immediate and vital medical attention are now being categorized into the “refugee” section that Trump is choosing to ignore altogether. Recent reports of both four-month-old babies and six-year-old cancer patients being turned away due to the refugee ban have surfaced, and although people seem to be upset by them, no action against the policy has been taken thus far.
Through the devastation of World War II, as early as 1941 refugees like the Frank family were being turned away at the U.S. border. Despite Otto Frank’s heavily stacked connections in America at the time, that even reached as far Eleanor Roosevelt herself, the negative spread of the media against the Jews plagued the minds of America beyond their measures.
Having once attempted to secure visas for his family, resulted in the physical destruction of the application documents. Frank was still hopeful that his inside connections would endure the abuse of the Nazis, but he was too late to save his family.
Too Little, Too Late
By the time he had approached the finish line of the application and visa process, “the American government was making it harder for foreigners to get into the country- and the Nazis were making it difficult to leave” according to the Washington Post.
Around the time it was reported that more than 300,000 names were on the waiting list for immigration visas, and, even worse, protocol was changed so only the families that had booked their trips to America were able to acquire them. His next best bet was Cuba, so Otto focused his quickly dimming hope on the small country that was initially granting passage until they were eligible for visas.
But, again, Otto missed the deadline and the U.S. started cracking down on the indirect route to get inside the states which also made Cuba nervous of a possible overflow of refugees stuck on their island.
As a result, policies were tightened once again and the Franks were out of luck for the third time. Despite all of his struggles, Otto managed to get himself a Cuba visa for the price of $2,500 just 10 days before Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S. Soon after, the Franks went into hiding, Anne, her mother and sister were murdered in the concentration camps, but amazingly Otto managed to survive five years after he attempted to save his family with a life in America.
The Gabr Family
Native Syrian family, the Gabrs, found themselves and their home victims of the war in Syria and fled to Egypt under the U.N. refugee agency. With what they thought would be a never ending sigh of relief, the family received word that they would safely be relocated to the United States and after spending 19 months of interviews and background checks, they were finally approved for their pending voyage.
After experiencing issues with his son-in-law’s application, father Mohamed decided to travel with his wife and his daughter and aimed for permanent relocation on the 19th of January. But, before they could make their legal escape, the harsh reality of the order thrust itself upon the immigrant family and blockaded every chance at freedom they may have ever had.
Syrian refugee and professional chocolatier Tariq Hadhad fled from Syria to Vancouver, Canada in hopes to one day build a life in Vermont. Apparently by not “having the correct documents,” he was turned away at the U.S. border despite his plans to meet up with the Vermont governor and fellow Syrian refugees.
As he and his family have become a symbol of refugee success, even Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shared the family’s inspirational story at the U.N. “The Hadhads said they knew what it felt like to flee their country, to flee their homes and lose everything and they wanted to help by giving back what they could.” Although Tariq is anticipating finally getting to America once he acquires the correct paper work, let’s hope the order has been settled and he is able to comfortably settle into the States.
Not even a filled position at the Harvard Medical School lab can stop the order that Trump has signed off in the states and Iranian scientist Samira Asgari has to put her life on hold because of it. When attempting to return to America from Lausanne, Asgari was pulled over to the side and told that her visa was not valid.
Confused, considering she had acquired a J-1 Visa to work in the states and was even awarded two years of funding for her research from the Swiss National Science Foundation, all she could do was wait it out. Currently remaining in Switzerland with the help of friends both Asgari and her boyfriend Raychaudhuri must await the hopeful expiration of the refugee order until she can focus on her dream job; if she ever has that chance again, that is.
It’s Not Just Muslims
As if we thought that this new order even remotely applied to only Muslim-based people, here is a twist. An American citizen accompanied his Canadian partner and attempted to enter the U.S. border from Canada for the Women’s March but was denied passage simply for stating that that he was anti-Trump.
Labeled as a “silent disruption,” the officer told Decunha that he could not come into the country for disagreeing with Trump’s policies, to which his partner decided to get in his face. Regardless of the scene made, Decunha was fingerprinted, photographed and forced to turn around. If there is anything to be said about such an incident, it is that no one is safe when traveling if they aren’t willing to agree with everything the current President of the United States stands for.