Caught Up in Travel Ban, a Family Reunites
This moment seemed impossible to Mohammed Alqalos just six weeks ago.
@jaketapper: In which a father and mother but not their baby were allowed to enter the US
MARCH 16, 2017
This is the moment Mohammed Alqalos has been imagining for more than two years. It is a moment that seemed impossible to him just six weeks ago, when President Trump signed an executive order temporarily barring immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
“I cannot see my family,” he said. “I cannot go back to Jordan, they cannot come to America, so we are like, stuck.”
Mohammed was born and raised in Amman, Jordan, but because his father was Iraqi, he, too, is an Iraqi national. As an Iraqi living in Jordan he had trouble finding steady work. In 2010, he traveled to Iraq for the first and only time to renew his passport, and wound up in jail. When he returned, he applied for U.N. refugee status and came to the United States in 2012.
Now a United States green card holder, he married his Jordanian girlfriend, Kholoud Sammour, on a trip back to Amman in 2014. Soon afterward, he petitioned the United States government to allow her to live with him in Louisville, Ky.
While the visa application was pending, Mohammed visited Kholoud; the couple soon had a baby, Lilav, who is now 5 months old. Like her father, Lilav holds Iraqi citizenship, although she’s never been to that country in her short life.
The baby’s nationality was the problem.
After Mr. Trump signed his original travel ban, which blocked immigrants from Iraq, the American Embassy in Jordan told Kholoud that she could travel, but her infant could not.
She was given three options: go to the United States without her baby; cancel her old visa application and start a new one; or wait and see what happens.
Naturally, she chose the last option, and at the end of February, after the original travel ban was blocked by a court, the visas — one for Kholoud and one for Lilav — finally came.
The president issued a revised travel ban, one that exempted Iraqis but still drew lawsuits claiming it amounted to discrimination against Muslims. On Wednesday, as a federal judge in Hawaii issued a temporary restraining order blocking the new ban, Mohammed was at O’Hare Airport in Chicago, with a dozen red roses, welcoming his wife and baby.
“Finally, we’re done, after more than two years waiting,” he said. “We are being together. I can see her face to face.”
Mohammed, who sells cellphone accessories at an outlet mall, was to be the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit that a group of Louisville-based lawyers were planning to file in the chaotic days following Mr. Trump’s original executive order. But now that his wife and daughter have arrived, Mohammed no longer has reason to take legal action. Instead, he has been able to focus on things like buying some furniture to fill his new one-bedroom apartment.
He’s gotten only a few items so far: a sturdy crib, a queen-size mattress, a seat for the baby. Just enough for Kholoud and Lilav to be comfortable on arrival. His wife will pick out the rest to her taste, he says, so she feels at home.