Partopour was reportedly among a number of people aboard a Lufthansa flight who had previously been blocked from entering the country by Trump’s executive order but were now being allowed through. Their arrivals could be significant, suggesting there is at least some temporary leeway in the ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries.
A Boston Globe reporter at the airport wrote on Twitter that a woman from Iraq was the first to make her way past Customs and Border Protection into the U.S. The reporter wrote that she embraced family amid cheers from a crowd that had gathered.
Also on the flight was reportedly Samira Asgari, an Iranian scientist who was headed to Boston to conduct research at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Asgari tried twice to board flights to the United States but was turned away because of the ban. A volunteer legal team operating at the airport posted a picture of her at the airport on Twitter.
It was unclear how, exactly, Partopour and others were allowed to board a U.S.-bound plane and then enter the country through Boston. Wamback said Partopour’s visa had been issued before the executive order but was delayed in getting to him through the mail. Alison Duffy, another school spokeswoman, said Partopour, a PhD student in chemical engineering, had been working on a project in Germany but had returned to Iran to renew his visa. She said she believed he had not previously attempted to come back to the country, mindful that he might be stopped by the executive order.
“We just want this student back here doing his work,” Duffy said.
On Thursday, before the flight had landed, spokeswomen from the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security said they would have to research the matter. They did not return messages Friday after the flight had landed.
After Trump’s order, the State Department revoked all valid nonimmigrant and immigrant visas of nationals of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. In a letter, Edward J. Ramotowski, State Department deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of Consular Affairs, said the revocation would not apply to “any visa exempted on the basis of a determination made by the secretaries of State and Homeland Security,” and those exemptions would be determined “on a case-by-case basis, and when in the national interest.”
The airline Lufthansa had posted on its website Thursday night a vague notice that Trump’s executive order was “suspended” on flights to Boston, where a federal court had declared that — at least until Sunday — no one was to be detained or removed who “absent the executive order, would be legally authorized to enter the United States.”
The airline, though, said that only those with “valid travel documents” would be eligible to board. That would apparently not be the case for the tens of thousands of people whose visas were revoked. Lufthansa later removed the language about the executive order being suspended.
Christina Semmel, a spokeswoman for Lufthansa, declined to comment on when the airline began allowing travel to Boston. She said Lufthansa was simply following guidance it and other carriers had received from U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials.
“The airline community commenced transporting passengers and accepting bookings after CPB confirmed it was abiding by the Massachusetts court order,” she said.
A Customs and Border Protection official from Boston emailed airlines on Sunday and declared it was “unlawful to bring into the United States any alien who does not have a valid passport and an unexpired visa,” according to a copy of the message obtained by The Washington Post.
Officials with the ACLU nonetheless hailed the news, declaring on Twitter that Lufthansa was “now boarding travelers from the seven banned countries” in accordance with the order of the federal court in Massachusetts. On Friday, government lawyers argued that order — which is set to expire on Sunday — was no longer necessary, and a judge said he would take their arguments under advisement and issue a ruling later. The ACLU is pushing to have the order extended.