CAIRO – The photos of the Sharef family spoke volumes about their plight.
In the first two, the Iraqis are happily seated on their plane, smiling. They were flying from their home in Irbil to New York. In the next few, they are seated in Cairo’s airport, their faces glum and haggard. By then, they had been taken off their plane — and informed they could no longer travel to the United States.
It did not matter that they had valid visas. It did not matter that they were headed to Nashville to start a new life. President Trump’s executive order banning entry to citizens of Iraq and six other mostly Muslim nations had caught up with the family of five.
“I am a very hard worker,” Fuad Sharef, the father, said in a telephone interview because they were not allowed to leave the airport terminal. “Going to America was a dream for me and my kids.
“Everything has gone down the drain because of Donald Trump.”
Down the drain means this: The family had sold their house, their car and all their possessions to aid them in their new life. The children were pulled out of their schools. Sharef quit his well-paying job at a pharmaceutical company. And their air tickets cost $5,000.
Also down the drain is their sense of security. Sharef once worked for a U.S. government subcontractor in post-invasion Iraq as a translator and a program manager. He got his visas, after two years of vetting, through a special U.S. resettlement program for Iraqi employees of the American government. Working for Americans was filled with perils, he said. He and other colleagues faced death threats; he knew co-workers who were kidnapped or killed.
On Sunday, he and his family — his wife, Arazoo, 41; his son, Bnyad, 19; his daughter Yad, 17; and another daughter, Shad, 10 — boarded a flight back to Irbil after spending the night inside the airport terminal.
“Donald Trump destroyed my life,” Sharef said. “How can he do this to people who risked their lives to help America?”