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Update, 2/6/17: Isweiri and Tameem were reunited with their family at DIA on Sunday, February 5, after a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order on the immigration ban.
Colorado resident Hanan Isweiri hadn’t visited her home country of Libya in six years. Earlier this month, she returned with her 13-month-old son, Tameem, to attend her father’s funeral. Her family had not yet had the chance to meet the youngest of her four children.
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For five years, the 41-year-old has lived in Fort Collins with her children and husband, Ahmad Buhalfaia. Isweiri holds an F1 visa, issued by the U.S. government to international students studying at American institutions. Isweiri is a Ph.D. candidate at Colorado State University, and is preparing to defend her thesis on plant physiology in the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture in early March.
But for the last three days, Isweiri and Tameem have been stranded in Amman, Jordan. She told 5280 she was unable to board her U.S.-bound Lufthansa flight due to the executive order signed by President Donald Trump on Friday afternoon that bars nationals of her home country, Libya, from entering the U.S. for 90 days, regardless of visa status. The order also bans citizens from six other Muslim-majority countries—Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen—in the same time frame, and prohibits all refugees from entering the United States for 120 days.
Although the American Civil Liberties Union won a temporary injunction on Saturday night that stopped the deportation of individuals with valid visas who were being detained at U.S. airports, immigrants who have not yet returned to the U.S. appear to be stuck in limbo for the time being.
Isweiri says she has been in Amman since Saturday morning. She flew from Libya to the Jordanian capital to catch a Lufthansa flight connecting to Frankfurt, Germany, where she would continue on to Denver International Airport. She says she tried to purchase tickets from Virgin Airlines, Royal Jordanian, and Turkish Airlines as well, but no airline will take her without confirmation that she’ll be able to deplane and legally enter the U.S. once in Denver.
Isweiri’s husband is working with the CSU Office of International Programs to try and help his wife return to Fort Collins. In a statement posted to the office’s website in response to the executive order, the department announced they have contracts with an immigration lawyer to support their students affected by the ban.
“We’re certainly in communication with the people we know who are overseas,” says Mark Hallett, CSU’s senior director of International Student and Scholar Services. “We want to get them back but we have to wait until there is something that changes in terms of the ability of them to enter the United States.”
In the meantime, Isweiri and her son, Tameem, expect to be asked to leave Jordan in the morning. They’ve been there for more than 72 hours without a visa.
She says she is keeping in close contact with her husband, but hasn’t spoken to her other three children yet, who have been eagerly awaiting their mother’s return for several weeks. Isweiri says she doesn’t want to worry them, and is hoping a solution will become available to her soon.
“I couldn’t talk to my kids, they don’t know the whole story,” she says. “I thought if I talk to them, I’ll cry.”
Update, 1/31/17: Earlier today, Isweiri and Tameem were asked to leave Jordan and flew back to Tripoli, Libya, where Isweiri is a citizen but Tameem is not (he is a U.S. citizen). We’ll continue to update this story as we receive more information about Isweiri’s visa status.
Read how Colorado politicians responded to President Trump’s executive order.