Federal officials apparently are working to reinstate the visas of two Yemeni brothers who were turned away at Dulles International Airport last weekend, according to the attorney general of Virginia.
Tareq and Ammar Aqel Mohammed Aziz, ages 21 and 19, flew into Dulles on Saturday with plans to reunite in Michigan with their father, a U.S. citizen. But attorneys who filed suit on their behalf say that in response to President Trump’s travel ban they were detained and coerced into renouncing their claims to legal permanent residence in the United States. They were then sent to Ethiopia and eventually Djibouti.
Now, Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) says they probably will be allowed into the country.
“The government has moved quickly to make the case go away to avoid being subject to an order compelling it to produce information about its actions,” Herring’s spokesman Michael Kelly said in a statement. “They now appear to be working out some kind of arrangement with the Aziz brothers, the named plaintiffs in the suit, that would apparently ‘resolve Petitioners claims,’ presumably by getting them back into the country.”
Records in U.S. District Court in Alexandria said the parties have signed an “agreement to resolve” the brothers’ claim. An attorney for the Aziz brothers declined to comment, as did a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office.
The case is among several filed nationwide in response to the president’s executive order, which placed a ban on travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
The Commonwealth of Virginia intervened in the Aziz brothers’ suit, asking why Customs and Border Protection officials should not be held in contempt for their actions this past weekend. Judge Leonie M. Brinkema issued an order late Saturday that all legal permanent residents be given access to lawyers and none be deported.
“Such access was not provided and respondents have not disclosed, despite request, whether any such persons were removed from the United States after they knew” of the order, attorneys for the commonwealth wrote.
It’s not clear how the resolution affects the 60 “John Does” listed as plaintiffs in the case. On Thursday morning, a new plaintiff asked to intervene.
Sahar Kamal Ahmed Fadul tells a story similar to that of the Aziz brothers. She came to Dulles on Saturday morning from Sudan to meet her fiance, Osman Nasreldin, a U.S. citizen who lives in Colorado. When she arrived, she was stopped by customs agents and was “forced to surrender her visa and accompanying immigration documentation,” according to her brief. Falud, like the Aziz brothers, says she was compelled to sign a form rescinding her visa application and was put on the next flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Nasreldin met Fadul, a microbiologist, on a 2011 trip to visit his family in Sudan, according to court documents. They stayed in touch, and Nasreldin visited Fadul twice in her home country over the next three years. In 2014, they became engaged and made plans to marry in the United States once Nasreldin finished school and began working as a dental hygienist.
Fadul received her visa in October 2016 after an “extensive vetting process,” her filing says, and bought a ticket to the United States on Jan. 1.
When she arrived at Dulles on Saturday and was detained, “she had no access to a telephone and was never given the opportunity to contact her fiance,” according to the motion. “Notably, Ms. Fadul does not speak English, and no interpreters were provided for the detainees.”
She was given no translation of the form she was asked to sign, her lawyers said, which waived her right to enter the United States.
“She was then informed that she would be returned to Addis Ababa immediately by Ethiopian Airlines, and she was placed on a flight that same night. She was also informed that her passport would be held by the airline until she was able to reimburse the airline for the cost,” the brief says.
Fadul’s fiance, in Colorado, had to scrape together $2,000 to get her out of the Addis Ababa airport and back to Sudan, said Timothy Heaphy, her attorney.
Heaphy, a former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, said he took the case because he “was frustrated with the president’s immigration order and wanted to get involved.”
He plans to ask at a hearing Friday to join the Aziz brothers’ case.