From Boston to Baghdad, families are being ripped apart. Some people can’t go home to the US, others can’t return to their native countries to visit parents and children, and still others are stranded in airports and cities halfway across the world — affected by President Donald Trump’s immigration order.
Here are some of their stories:
Armineh is a small business owner who’s lived in Virginia since 1999. Her family doesn’t get to visit her often, and this immigration ban is only going to make it harder.
Her parents, who are dual citizens of Sweden and Iran, were supposed to fly in to visit her next weekend. Now she doesn’t know when she’ll see them again.
“I haven’t seen my parents in two years,” she says. “And the only thing that’s holding them back is that they happen to be born in another country. I have a sister in London who probably will never be able to visit me, because she’s a dual citizen as well.”
She is Syrian and has been living in Ohio with her husband and daughter since 2009. She doesn’t want her name used because, given the climate, she worries about consequences.
Her mother in Syria has had multiple heart attacks and is not doing well. “I’m in constant worry about her situation,” she says, explaining that she planned to visit Syria if her mother had another heart attack.
But now, she feels like she must choose between visiting her mother and staying with her 6-year-old daughter.
She is a Syrian citizen and has a green card. But if she leaves the US to visit her mother, she will not be able to return. She doesn’t want to bring her young daughter to Syria, a country that’s still torn by violence and war.
“I’m hoping I will not reach the choice to choose between my daughter — leaving her here, obviously I’m not going to take my daughter, it’s not safe there — and seeing my mother and father,” she says. “The idea that you aren’t able to see your parents or attend a funeral — for me, it’s heartbreaking.”
Mohammad was a contractor with the US army in Iraq. He says he left Baghdad for Texas in 2012 to live in peace, to live in freedom.
He’s married, lives in Austin and works as a security officer and a AAA service officer.
But his wife is in Iraq right now, taking care of his parents. His mom has stage 4 breast cancer and his dad has stage 4 colon cancer.
His wife has an Iraqi passport and a green card. Her flights were booked, and she was supposed to come home on February 15. But now she can’t come back.
“I’m just shocked now. What do I do now? Everything is not clear,” he says.
Hoda is a 29-year-old Iranian student at the University of Southern California pursuing a masters degree. Her husband is with her, working on his PhD.
She was initially excited for her graduation in May. Her parents were going to visit, and she was starting to think about what jobs to apply for. But the immigration ban changed everything.
“I was excited about graduating. Now, I’m heartbroken. I have no idea what I can do afterward,” she says.
Her husband still has a few more years of study to earn his PhD, so Hoda was planning to stay in the United States after graduation.
But now she doesn’t know what to do. Her student visa will expire after she graduates, and she can no longer apply for jobs in the United States because she cannot apply for a new visa as an Iranian.
If she chooses to leave the country and find a job elsewhere, she will not be able to return. And her husband has to stay in the US to finish his studies.
“It will tear our family apart,” she says.
Saad is an oncologist and an American citizen. His 34-year-old brother Zain is also a physician, and the chief medical officer for a large corporation.
The two Iraqi brothers have built a life in Minnesota. Saad has a wife and children, and Zain is engaged. Their mother lives there too.
Zain, who has a green card, was traveling to the United Arab Emirates on a business trip. He was supposed to fly home Friday, and now he can’t return.
“I’m frustrated. I don’t know what to do,” Saad says. “We just want our voice to be heard. It’s so un-American … This is our land of opportunity. This is our home.”
Abbas, his wife and their two kids live in New Jersey, where he’s a PhD student at Rutgers University. They’re Iraqi.
Now, their plans for the summer are ruined. They can’t visit their families, and their families can’t visit them.
Abbas needs to go back to Iraq to finish research and do field work for his doctoral degree in political science. He’s on a scholarship and he has a contract with the Iraqi government, he says. He wants to finish his studies here and then go teach at a university in Baghdad.
Right now, Abbas is at a loss. He says he doesn’t know what he’s going to do.
Soudeh and her mom were in Toronto for a family function when they heard news about the possibility of an immigration ban.
They are Iranian citizens with green cards, so everybody told them, “get back as soon as you can.”
Soudeh paid $300, got on an earlier flight, and returned to Boston on Friday. Just in time.
But her mother is stuck in Toronto. “The funniest thing is, with a green card, you can go to Mexico, you can go to Canada, but you cannot come back home,” Soudeh says.
Her father and sister — also Iranian citizens with green cards — are in Iran, unable to return. And her Iranian brother-in-law has a temporary visa, which will expire if he doesn’t come to the United States in the next few months.
Dahan’s sister-in-law and her six children were detained Saturday at Dulles airport outside Washington. The three youngest children, ages 7, 8 and 16, have US passports and have been told they can enter the country. The rest of the family have Yemeni passports and green cards and have been told that they will be sent back to Djibouti, where they have spent the last few months because of the civil war in Yemen.
They arrived from Djibouti to join Dahan’s brother in the United States. When Dahan spoke to CNN on Saturday, his brother was driving across the country from Michigan to Dulles. He says they don’t know what to do and aren’t sure what comes next.
“This is inhumane,” Dahan says. “This is not the United States that we knew.”
Brandy and her partner Reza have been planning their wedding in the US for two years. Now their plans are in limbo.
Reza is an Iranian citizen with a green card. His entire family was planning to visit for the wedding. Now they probably won’t be able to come, and if he leaves the country to see them, he will not be able to return.
Brandy says the idea of Reza’s parents not being able to attend their wedding is “just heartbreaking. They’ve already been here before. They’re professional people who’re just trying to be with their loved ones during these important times.”
He is a dual Iranian and American citizen who wishes to remain anonymous. He moved here in 2003 and lives in Los Angeles.
His 60-year-old mother, an Iranian citizen with a green card, visits him every few months. He worries about what will happen to her if she tries to visit.
“I don’t want her to come to a situation where she’s going to be interrogated. I had a friend that just came today and said that a bunch of people were handcuffed,” he says.
His mother splits her time between him and his siblings, who live in Singapore and Thailand.
“I’m the only with grandchildren, and she comes to visit them as frequently as possible,” he says.