Legal Immigrants Who Were on Flights to the US When Trump’s Executive Order Was Signed Have Been Detained

The President’s executive order on immigration, which imposes new conditions on entry for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, took immediate effect.

Google rushed to try to get 100 traveling employees home to the U.S. while the order was still in draft form.

“No one is really sure whether a green card holder from these seven countries can return to the U.S. now. It’s fairly clear that an H-1B visa holder can’t,” Benach said. The H-1B lets U.S. companies employ graduate-level workers from other countries in technical occupations such as technology, engineering and science.

There was no grace period, there were passengers who were legally headed to the U.S. when their flights took off but who – after the order was signed – became inadmissible to the United States.


Copyright: andreyuu / 123RF Stock Photo

One of those detained was a man coming to the U.S. from Iraq under fear for his life. He had worked for the U.S. government for 10 years. He was coming to the U.S. legally, having been granted a visa. His wife and children made it into the country, but he was detained and has been told he must return to Iraq where he had “been directly targeted twice for working with the United States military.”

Brandon Friedman, who worked with Mr. Darweesh as an infantry lieutenant with the 101st Airborne, praised Mr. Darweesh’s work. “This is a guy that this country owes a debt of gratitude to,” Mr. Friedman said. “There are not many Americans who have done as much for this country as he has. He’s put himself on the line. He’s put his family on the line to help U.S. soldiers in combat, and it is astonishing to me that this country would suddenly not allow people like that in.”

A policy of denying sanctuary to those who provide support to the U.S. military puts troops in danger in war zones.

“If those interpreters and those fixers hear that the United States is not going to protect them, then they don’t have any incentive to work with U.S. troops, and there’s no way that we can operate without their support and assistance.”

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. This is beyond disturbing. These are legal residents with homes, jobs, and families in the U.S.! Maybe Americans shouldn’t be allowed to return because Timothy McVeigh.

  2. What a mess! Pendulum has swing in the opposite direction. We went from Pres Obama welcoming everyone and anyone to this fool. If only the previous admin had not been doling out goodies to any Tom, Dick and Harry we wouldn’t have Trump in the WH.

  3. Gary,
    Be careful, or someone might mistake your tone and topic for a progressive. That might be bad for business…

  4. Welcome to the new Nazi police state. Herr Trump is now in charge. And the evangelicals are calling this clown a gift from God. No wonder the rest of the world hates us.

  5. As someone who has traveled the world, I can assure you that the claim that “the rest of the world hates us” is false. I have found that the rest of the world (with a few exceptions) loves America. It’s the American leadership is often questioned (with good reason).

  6. Supreme leader trump will build a floating smart wall to keep patriotic deplorables safe.

    The cost will be high, but once Obamacare is gone there will be plenty of money.

    Who needs more than 4 teeth in the mouth anyway?

  7. We were always the best example of freedom, we weren’t perfect and we didn’t always get it right, but we were the best. In one week it’s just spiraled out of control, this is madness.

  8. Zero-notice changes are the worst. One could argue that this change was disclosed on November 9, 2016 to be effective January 20, 2017. Like the British Airways switch to Avios, the timing of this change was known but the new rules were not disclosed in advance. Many people anticipated the bad news and protected themselves but many more did not.

  9. Oh my. The link to The Terminal is an all too sad contrast between life and art. But thanks for posting it and this story anyway.

  10. Stopping migration from certain countries is an excellent idea. It’s almost impossible to vet potential immigrants from those countries as it is.

    That said, if these individuals were already in the air before the Executive Order was signed, they should be allowed in.

  11. My wife is Iranian, so I’ve been hearing about people in their community who have been affected. Some H1-B workers and even green card holders who were traveling (work, vacation, visiting family) and now can’t come back. Many have been living in the US for many years and their entire life is here. In fact, some would even be arrested if they return to Iran due to political persecution. Now they are stranded abroad. It’s hard to believe this is really happening.

  12. This affects US citizens too. Iran has already banned travel to their country for Americans. Expect a lot more of this tit-for-tat making the world even smaller for Americans who love to travel.

    We have broken our word to Iraqis who put their lives on the line to help US soldiers. There are Green Card holders stranded abroad because they are from one of these countries. Oh, and ISIS is thrilled and using this as a recruiting tool now.

    We are less safe and have degraded our country – and for what?

  13. Yawn. Another day, another Trump complaint.
    As your hero reminded us all 8 years ago, elections have consequences.
    And you lost. Get over it.

  14. So heres the scenario. A loyal fixer in Iraq gets his family threatened for helping American soldiers. He puts them on a flight to USA with visa clearance. They get denied entry and return back. They are kidnapped at the airport and Al Qaeda calls the guy and tells him they will let his family go if he blows himself up inside a US staff meeting. Improbable? Yes Impossible? No. So how many American soldiers will Trump’s decision kill? Who knows?

  15. Trump is an American of German descent. Making jokes about him being Hitler is discrimination on the basis of national origin

  16. Victor, if they would be arrested if they returned to Iran then why are they not in the US now?

    You forget that background screening in Iran is impossible because the government there refuses to release any data. And given that Iran is a state sponsor of terror, tough luck.

  17. Because they are traveling to other countries (not US or Iran) for work or leisure. Now they can’t come to the US, nor to their country of birth.

    Kinda hard to say “tough luck to you” when these people have been living and working here for years, and are contributing to the American society. And it seems ridiculously arbitrary to say “now you’re a security concern” after they’ve been living here for so long. For them, if you happened to be outside of the country when the order came, you’re just screwed.

  18. None of the seven Muslim countries that have been banned were where the 9/11 terrorists came from. Coincidentally, Trump has business interests in all of them.

    As for, “you lost, get over it.” Nope, not gonna get over it. Trump was elected under false pretenses and it’s the job of every truly patriotic American to oppose his attempts to turn us into a fascist state.

  19. Victor, the way this is reported this doesn’t apply if they have a green card already. And if they don’t have a green card, then their life here has always been fleeting at best.

  20. Michael, does it hurt when you think?

    This has nothing to do with 9/11. It has everything to do with increased future risk. Trying to dumb it down for you, consider when you apply for credit. A certain minimal percentage of those with high credit scores will still default. A much higher percentage of those with no credit history whatsoever will default.

    The current administration sees no credit history with people from certain countries because their government is so screwed up that there is no exchange of information at all.

    Look at Germany. They’ve seen scores of people murdered by Syrian “refugees” and at least half a dozen rapes.

    If you don’t like the current state of affairs, you can always leave. Heard weather is nice in Mexico. Trailer parks might be even better there than what you are used to.

  21. J.C.:

    First, the crime rate among Syrian, Afghani, and Iraqi refugees in Germany is disproportionately low– meaning that, for instance, a German is more likely to be murdered/raped/robbed/etc. by another German-born citizen than by an immigrant from the countries on Trump’s list. Because these immigrants are statistically less given to criminality than the residents of the country at large, Germany would reduce its per-capita crime rate by taking in MORE refugees, not fewer.

    Second, Green Card holders are indeed affected by the Executive Order, so yes, people who’ve made lives in America (and about whom we have ample data to make sound decisions) are being denied entry based on little more than paranoia and nationalism.

    Third– and this is admittedly a stylistic point– but I thought the stereotype of #NeverTrump voters was one of effete coastal intellectuals (and, in 45’s view, illegal Hispanic immigrants). The trailer park crowd was, at least in fat-marker rendering of the electorate, Trump’s base! Telling anti-Trumpers to move to trailer parks in Mexico seems… off-message.

  22. The USA has been importing more muslims for decades from all over the
    world then GERMANY, BRITAIN, FRANCE & BRITAIN combined. Germany may
    have recently for one time allowed many muslims at once but we the
    USA has been allowing them in for many years and 10 times more
    then germany alone.

    Now the ban on some foreign nationals:

    Unless you are a US citizen, there is no right to enter the US and the CBP
    agents have the RIGHT to refuse your entry and doesn’t matter whether
    you are an illegal alien with no valid visa or even a permanent
    residents like a green card holder. You are considered a foreigner until
    and unless you are a national of the USA.
    The
    CBP agents do deny entry and refuse all kinds of
    valid visa holders and green card holders at the port of entry. So
    these Iraqis should not
    only be refused entry, they should be banned for filing fake lawsuit
    against the president of this country just becos our president and CBP
    didn’t allow their entry. Didn’t they forget they are a foreign
    national?

  23. As someone looking at your country from the outside, it is a wonder how a nation as powerful and great as yours is nothing more than a sh*tshow.

    Protests need to be started across America at airports to bring them to a standstill. Have taxis create a traffic mess preventing even trump from moving from the WH.

    Your country will implode with this lunatic. Save yourself and become a country that the rest of the world respects.

  24. Well I totally understand the need to do extreme vetting for persons of unknown background from failed states with lots of terrorist involvement. But of course it’s entirely reasonable to not apply this to folks with green cards, and especially to those who have been working with the US military. But it’s “government”, which has never been strong on the reasonableness quotient.

    Silly though to blame that solely on Trump. The previous rule for those who escaped Cuba and made it to US soil was they could stay. Overnight on Jan 12th Obama issued an executive order, and now those who seriously risked their lives in unseaworthy boats, and made it here safely, were told, ‘sorry, if you’d gotten here yesterday you could have stayed, but today we’re sending you back home’. Despite the fact that they had set out to sea before the rule change.

    The heavy hand of the government typically lacks subtlety, and so the less of that the better. As someone up thread said, the pendulum had swung too far in the direction of anyone can come in, even from ISIS controlled areas, without our knowing anything about them. Now it’s swung way too far in the opposite direction. This will get sorted out in the long term, but as usual with the Federal Government, people will get hurt in the short term.

    Update: the person mentioned in this post who had worked with the US military in Iraq has been allowed in: “according to CNN, Darweesh was released due to exemptions in Trump’s order “that allow the State and Homeland Security departments to admit individuals into the US on a case-by-case base for certain reasons, including when the person is already in transit and it would cause undue hardship and would not pose a threat to the security of the US.”

  25. True, they have the right to deny entry. As an immigrant myself, I’m well aware of that, but thankfully I’m not from a country in that list.

    See how quickly we’ve come campaign promises of kicking out illegal immigrants and stopping terrorist to denying entry to legal permanent residents. Let me type that again: legal permanent residents. What’s next? Expanding the list of banned countries? Kicking out the legal immigrants that are already inside? Kicking out all Muslims? Where do you draw the line? What if one day you find that you’re part of some category that’s deemed undesirable?

  26. @Victor You do realize, don’t you, that this is a temporary program while new procedures are developed. If a more effective program had been designed over the past 8 years, none of this would have been necessary. Just because someone was admitted under totally lax vetting doesn’t mean they should have been admitted. As the Boston Marathon, Florida nightclub, and Santa Barbara massacres make all too clear.

    And no, there are no plans to construct “camps” for various categories of people. At least not under Trump. The only calls for that sort of thing that I’m aware of are the Global Warming (sic) activists who pre-Trump were calling for Global Warming “Deniers” (sic) to be imprisoned for ‘endangering the planet’.

  27. No one has a right to immigrate or enter the country other than citizens. That said, I suspect the executive order does not specify green card holders, and so this is likely an example of overzealous enforcement and will be adjusted. As for those claiming we are “spiraling down,” this policy is actually far less stringent than U.S. policy for most of the country’s history, and still less strict than most countries today. You people need to get some perspective.

  28. Gary When are you going to update this post, with the news that Darweesh has been admitted to the US? The whole screed about “policy of denying sanctuary to those who provide support to the U.S. military puts troops in danger in war zones” is clearly not accurate”. So why leave it up uncorrected? Just to get more clicks?

  29. Gary I have something I’m sure you are going to post about as soon as possible:

    “It turns out this was a form of fake news, or alternative facts. Trump didn’t select seven “Muslim-majority” countries. US President Barack Obama’s administration selected these seven Muslim-majority countries.

    The Department of Homeland Security targeted these seven countries over the last years as countries of concern. In February 2016 “The Department of Homeland Security today announced that it is continuing its implementation of the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 with the addition of Libya, Somalia, and Yemen as three countries of concern, limiting Visa Waiver Program travel for certain individuals who have traveled to these countries.” It noted “the three additional countries designated today join Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Syria as countries subject to restrictions for Visa Waiver Program travel for certain individuals.” It was the US policy under Obama to restrict and target people “who have been present in Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, at any time on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited government/military exceptions).” This was text of the US Customs and Border Protection in 2015 relating to “the Visa Waiver Program and Terrorist Travel Protection Act of 2015“. The link even includes the seven nation list in it: “Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Somalia or Yemen.”

    And the media knew this back in May 2016 when some civil rights groups complained about it. “These restrictions have provoked an outcry from the Iranian-American community, as well as Arab-American and civil-liberties groups, who say the restrictions on dual nationals and certain travelers are discriminatory and could be imposed against American dual nationals.”

    It was signed into law on December 18, 2015, as part of the Omnibus Appropriations Act of FY2016.

    What? So there was a Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 two years before Trump? There was a kind of “Muslim ban” before the Muslim ban? But almost no one critiqued it in 2015 because it was Obama’s administration overseeing it.

    So for more than a year it has been US policy to discriminate against, target and even begin to ban people from the seven countries that Trump is accused of banning immigrants and visitors from. CNN even hinted at this by noting “those countries were named in a 2016 law concerning immigration visas as ‘countries of concern.’” But why didn’t CNN note that the seven countries were not named and that in fact they are only on the list because of Obama’s policy?

    What? So there was a Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 two years before Trump? There was a kind of “Muslim ban” before the Muslim ban? But almost no one critiqued it in 2015 because it was Obama’s administration overseeing it.

    So for more than a year it has been US policy to discriminate against, target and even begin to ban people from the seven countries that Trump is accused of banning immigrants and visitors from. CNN even hinted at this by noting “those countries were named in a 2016 law concerning immigration visas as ‘countries of concern.’” But why didn’t CNN note that the seven countries were not named and that in fact they are only on the list because of Obama’s policy?”

    Google: “Obama’s administration made the “Muslim ban” possible and the media won’t tell you” for more.

    And note that is isn’t coming from a “right wing blog”, since the author goes on to say:

    “The public should be suspicious of Trump’s policies and the media should speak truth to power and demand answers from the administration. But the media should also be truthful with the public and instead of claiming Trump singled out seven countries, it should note that the US Congress and Obama’s Department of Homeland Security had singled out these countries. It should have told us about theTerrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 rather than pretend this list was invented in 2017. Trump’s executive order said “countries of concern,” it didn’t make a list. That list was already made, last year and years before.”

    I’m eager to read Gary’s post about this. 😉

  30. The whining and crying of liberal snowflakes is quite entertaining. Legal immigrant residents? Nope. They were legal, now they’re not anymore. I guess you are not used to politicians actually doing what they said during the election (like the last one). Sorry that a few good people won’t be able to come to the US, but instead of blaming President Trump, perhaps you should blame rampant muslim terrorism and the vast support they enjoy in the named countries, and across the muslim world.

  31. Making America Great/Safe Again. And it is so satisfying to watch the libs pouting and stomping their feet.

  32. Uh Robert Hanson, you *do* know that the Boston Marathon, Florida nightclub, and Santa Barbara massacres were perpetrated by Americans, right? Not foreign nationals? That they had nothing to do with “lax vetting”?

  33. Unfortunately changes in Government policy, in whatever country, often have unforeseen or subjectively unfortunate consequences for some people. This is unfortunate but running a large country like America means doing your best for the vast majority. Sometimes a few people will get trampled on. It is very sad but basically unavoidable for the greater good.

  34. @Rose Sorry, I don’t know anything about the Santa Barbara attacks. I meant to say San Bernardino. And yes Syed Rizwan Farook was born in Chicago, but his wife was from Pakistan, and the reports I’ve read make it pretty clear that she radicalized him, and not the other way around. They met in Saudi Arabia, a matter I’ll return to in a moment.

    As for the Boston Marathon bombers, this is from Wikipedia:

    “Tamerlan, born in the Kalmyk Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic in 1986, and Dzhokhar, born in Kyrgyzstan in 1993.”

    I was incorrect about the Fla nightclub terrorist, he apparently was US born. However, like many of the US born terrorists, he had traveled to the Middle East several times, which quite possibly had an effect on his becoming radicalized. From Wiki: “Mateen visited Saudi Arabia for an eight-day trip in 2011 and a ten-day trip in 2012”. Around the same time visited the UAE, but no one seems to know what he did there. .

    Which adds to the question about “green card” people returning to the US after being in Terrorist strongholds. Not that none of them should be able to return, but that perhaps a bit of vetting might be in order, so as to weed out anyone who is returning, say from ISIS training in Syria.

    As was the case with Sophia S (cute how German police won’t release the name of convicted terrorists, so as to ‘protect their privacy’) .

    “BERLIN – A 16-year-old girl has been convicted in Germany of stabbing and wounding a police officer at the behest of the Islamic State group.

    The Celle state court said the girl, identified only as Safia S. under German privacy regulations, was sentenced to six years in prison, the dpa news agency reported Thursday.

    The German-Moroccan dual citizen traveled to Istanbul a year ago hoping to reach Syria but was brought back by her mother — but not before prosecutors say IS members tasked her with conducting an “act of martyrdom” in Germany.

    She stabbed the police officer with a kitchen knife in Hannover’s main train station last February.

    S., 15 at the time, was arrested at the scene of the crime.

    We have a big enough of a problem dealing with home-grown terrorists. We don’t need to be importing more.

    And no, I’m not Islamaphobic. When I was in college I studied with a Sufi Master, who taught me how to Whirl like a Dervish. Adnan was a great guy, and I learned a lot from him.
    I am however Radical Islamic Terroristphobic.

  35. Some positive movement on the whole issue:

    Federal judge blocks Trump immigration order: report

    http:// thehill. com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/316714-federal-judge-blocks-trump-immigration-ban-nationwide

  36. RR, intellectual dishonesty becomes you.

    The judge blocked ONLY the portion which denies entry to those who were in direct transit to the US before the ban had been implemented.

  37. Rose, thank you for making Trump’s point.

    While the chances are greater to be murdered / raped in Germany by a natural-born German, the fact is we can’t deport citizens; we are stuck with them.

    But we don’t have to be stuck with certain suspect refugees. Those murders / rapes were entirely preventable. Merkel now understands that and has drastically revamped her refugee thinking accordingly.

  38. @J.C. What “intellectual dishonesty”? Did you click on the link, to see that I copied the title, “Federal judge blocks Trump immigration order: report” from the article page? I believe it’s a positive step given the implementation of this order. If you don’t, that’s your opinion.

  39. The ‘straw man’ process in politics is to insistently and loudly proclaim some group as the enemy who are causing all the problems of the disaffected and disadvantaged . The aspiring candidate presents them self as the solution who will rip that ‘straw man ‘ shreds .
    This has been exploited successfully many , many times , in world history .
    For a better explanation I refer you to Winston Smith .

  40. a) @WR, @Sam: Even being a US citizen doesn’t make you safe: Japanese American citizens were placed into internment camps during WWII. “They were legal until they were not, deal with it” you say. What if that happened to you as a US citizen because of your heritage from an “anti-American” country? Would you want the “still-legals” to fight for you?

    b) If every other country in America did what we are doing now, refugees would have nowhere to go. Is this OK with you? “Tough luck”? “American interests first”? We are in a worldwide disaster with Syrian war and refugees. Stop being so self-centered. We have a duty to help humanity.

  41. @ Digitalpop: Does it hurt when you think?

    If Germany had done what we just did there would be 1/2 dozen fewer rape victims and about 100 few dead people. Shall we now discuss France?

    And only you are talking about internment camps to bolster a weak-minded argument.

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