Dr. Ghassan Assali and his wife Sarmad voted for reality TV star Donald Trump. But now the Allentown, Pennsylvania family is reeling after relatives who worked 13 years to come to the United States were turned away by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“I understand he wants to make America safe,” Sarmad tells the local NBC affiliate. “We’re all on with this. I definitely want to be in a safe place. But people need us and we need to be there for them.”
Altogether, six of her family members had sold everything they owned, obtained visas and green cards in advance, and expected little trouble as they were Orthodox Christians rather than Muslims.
But while Trump’s order seemed to focus on Muslims, ICE shut the door on seven nationalities, including Syrians. “Two security guards were waiting for them,” Assali explains. “They took them. They said, ‘Are you Syrians?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ They said, ‘Come with us.'”
Tawfik Assali had expected to see his mother again for the first time in three years. “I was one hour away from hugging her,” he says. She was returned to Damascus before lawyers for the ACLU and other nonprofit agencies won a court injunction that only protects travelers detained in the United States.
Now sitting in Damascus with not a penny to their name and their visas revoked, the six Assali family members face a daunting challenge in fulfilling their American dream.
“Lawyers from the ACLU of Pennsylvania, HIAS Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of the families,” NBC 10 reports. A GoFundMe campaign has also been set up to help them with expenses.
Of course, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure: Pennsylvania was one of the three states that swung the Electoral College to Trump in the first place.
“Why?” Sarmad Assali now asks Trump. “Where is your human side to send somebody to a war zone?” But it’s not like Donald kept his intentions secret during the campaign.
Almost from the beginning of the race, Trump spoke of Syrian war refugees as a “Trojan horse” for terrorism. “We cannot let them into this country, period,” he said, echoing the same comments in his debate with Hillary Clinton.
Too bad the Assalis weren’t paying attention.
Here’s the NBC Nightly News segment. Watch:
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