On Saturday afternoon in Djibouti, Ahmed Ali and his 12-year-old daughter Eman will board a flight to Istanbul. That’s the first leg of a journey that will bring Ahmed and Eman to California, where they’ll be reunited with the family they thought they might not see for a very long time.
Last Sunday, I wrote about the six-year struggle to bring Eman to the United States, a process that had culminated with her being granted an immigrant visa. After the issuance of Donald Trump’s executive order, however, that visa was not enough to allow the Yemeni-born child to get on an airplane to the U.S. That left Ahmed Ali and his daughter stranded in Djibouti, a country where they had no friends or family. “It’s not fair,” he told me.
The Ali family’s attorney Katy Lewis has been working every possible angle to get Eman on a flight to California. Her attempts to get a travel letter for the 12-year-old via the Department of State or Customs and Border Protection didn’t work, and the class-action suit in which Eman and Ahmed Ali are named plaintiffs is still pending. But on Friday night, Judge James Robart of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington ordered a nationwide stay on all of the travel restrictions mandated by Trump’s executive order. After Robart’s ruling, Lewis reached out to CBP, which confirmed that Ahmed and Eman Ali would be permitted to fly out of Djibouti.
“Until she’s here in the U.S., on U.S. soil, I won’t be 100 percent convinced, but I feel pretty good based on our communications with CBP that she’ll be allowed to board the flight,” Lewis told me on Friday.
The attorney says Ahmed Ali is “cautiously optimistic” that he’ll be back in the United States soon, though he’s understandably worried that he’ll have a problem at the airport. If everything goes according to plan, Ali and his daughter will arrive at San Francisco International Airport on Sunday afternoon. Eman Ali’s first trip to the U.S. will be a special one. Since she has an immigrant visa and is a minor with two U.S. citizen parents, she will become a citizen herself as soon as she’s admitted to the United States.
Update, Feb. 6, 2017, at 2:20 a.m.: Eman and Ahmed Ali made it to San Francisco International Airport on Sunday afternoon, where they were greeted by their relieved family. The 12-year-old Eman is now an American citizen.