A Syrian family turned away at Philadelphia International Airport last week is crossing the Atlantic once again and should enter the United States Monday morning.
Six Syrians, brothers Basam and Hassan Assali; their wives, Jozfin and Jurfeet; and Hassan's two children; are scheduled to arrive at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York Monday morning, a lawyer representing them, Jonathan Grode, said Sunday.
Their second journey to the United States in 10 days began Sunday morning with a drive from Damascus in their war-torn home nation to Beirut, Lebanon, Grode said. The next stage, a flight from Beirut to Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, faced potential complications because that nation restricts Syrians entering. U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent (R., Pa.) helped negotiate the family's entry, Grode said. Money donated to a GoFundMe account helped pay for the flights, he said.
With preflight clearance completed in the UAE, Grode said, the family expected to have no trouble entering the United States.
"They just need to get off the flight and pick up their bags at this point," he said.
Deferred preparations for a feast in Allentown began again Sunday, where a third brother, Ghassan Assali, and his wife, Sarmad, awaited their relatives' arrival. They planned to drive to JFK Monday morning to greet their kin, Sarmad Assali said.
"We found out last night, made all the arrangements," she said. "They are very excited and very happy and very relieved that everything worked out."
The family arriving from Syria plan to live in the United States. The first steps when the family arrives, Assali said, will be to enroll the children in schools, and then help the adults become more fluent in English so they can begin working.
The Assali family has been seeking entry to the United States since 2003 and was granted visas last year. President Trump's executive order signed Jan. 27 barred people from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen from entering the country, and the Assalis' visas were worthless. When they arrived in Philadelphia on Jan. 28, they were denied entry and their visas were cancelled. Hours later, U.S. officials put them on a plane to Qatar, and from there they traveled back to Damascus.
A federal judge in Washington state Friday suspended Trump's travel ban, which allowed American customs officials to reinstate the family's canceled visas. On Sunday a federal appeals court declined a White House request to reinstate the travel ban, ensuring the suspension would remain in place at least into Monday.
The visa cancellations were a potential major obstacle, Grode said, but U.S. customs officials are using an I193 waiver, a tool normally reserved for travelers who lose or damage their visas in transit, to reinstate the family's permission to enter the country.
The Assalis were among more than 100 who found themselves unexpectedly unable to enter the country last week despite having legal immigration documents. The ban prompted about 5,000 to demonstrate at the Philadelphia airport last Sunday to protest Trump's executive order, which also barred the entry of all Syrian refugees indefinitely.