The flight from Dubai to Dulles International Airport took 15 hours. The whole way, Mustafa Aidid, 22, worried that he would not be permitted to enter the United States.
But there he was, walking bleary-eyed through the international arrivals gate Monday, one of several passengers turned away last week because of President Trump’s far-reaching entry ban. They got a reprieve after a federal judge in Washington state blocked the executive order — at least temporarily.
“I can’t believe it. I am so happy,” Anab Ali said, wiping away a tear and wrapping her nephew in a hug. Aidid, a Somali citizen who was coming to the United States to marry his childhood sweetheart, held his aunt tight, saying nothing.
On the third day of the preliminary injunction against Trump’s order, the scene at Dulles was one of angst and celebration. All day, as flights arrived from Dubai and Doha and Addis Ababa, clusters of immigrants carrying flowers or balloons reading “Welcome Home” waited anxiously and, eventually, erupted in cheers.
In addition to Aidid, there was Hassamedin Agabani, 35, who was supposed to emigrate from Sudan to the United States next week but sped up his departure after aides to Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told his mother, a Maryland resident, that he should get out while he could. There was Nabila Alhaffar, 26, a Syrian citizen who lives in Falls Church, Va., but found herself unable to return home last week from Qatar, where she had gone to visit her ailing mother.
And there was Zahro Warsame, who had borrowed $2,625 to buy new plane tickets for her daughters and granddaughter after they were forced to stay in Ethiopia because of the ban.
She drove overnight from Lexington, Ky., with other family members, arriving at 5 a.m. Monday, hoping that this time her daughters would make it through.
“My head hurts,” Warsame, who works at a chicken processing plant in Kentucky, said through an interpreter. She stared at the doorway through which travelers were arriving, at times clutching her headscarf over her mouth.
Aidid and his fiance, Hoda Abdi, met in the United Arab Emirates when they were toddlers. Their mothers were friends. When Abdi’s family immigrated to the United States, she and Aidid lost touch. As they grew older, their families agreed that the two should be married. They were easy to persuade.
“Slowly, slowly, we started seeing each other outside and things took off from there,” Aidid said.
In December, Aidid was approved for a K-1 temporary visa, which allows him to marry Abdi, a U.S. citizen. They were planning their wedding for June, giving him time to find a job, perhaps using his new degree in business administration. She is studying speech pathology.
Then, last Wednesday, Aidid was turned away at Dubai International Airport. “I didn’t know what to do. We had waited so long,” he said.
He returned to the airport Sunday night. Although he boarded the plane without incident, he was convinced that someone would pull him off.
At Dulles, Aidid nervously moved through the U.S. Customs line. A federal agent read his paperwork, stamped the visa and waved him through. Then it was on to Ashburn, Va., to join his fiancee.
Warsame’s daughters moved to Ethiopia from Somalia about three years ago, after she immigrated to the United States.
The 18-year-old has a child who is 3. The other daughters are 16-year-old twins. All four were approved for family visas on Jan. 11, sponsored by another Warsame daughter, who is a U.S. citizen.
When they were turned away from their scheduled flight at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport last week, Warsame “basically gave up hope,” said Luul Sheikh-Ali, a niece. “We were worried about her health.”
She, Warsame and other relatives waited for hours Monday, long after the flight from Addis Ababa had landed.
“Did something else happen?” Sheikh-Ali said.
The flood of passengers became a trickle. Warsame and her family were the last ones waiting near the baggage carousel. Finally, daughters and granddaughter appeared, and everyone wept.
“It’s a miracle, because I never thought I’d see my mother again,” said Roodo Abdinasir, one of the twins.
Asma Abdinasir, the other twin, breathed a sigh of relief.
“It’s unbelievable,” she said. “I still don’t believe I’m here.”