Two young Yemeni brothers — whose names are at the center of legal wrangling over President Trump's executive order on immigration — were finally reunited with their father Monday in America after a nine-day period of confusion and strife sparked by the policy change.
The immigration ban applied to all refugees as well as nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries, but was suspended on Saturday after Seattle federal judge James L. Robart issued a temporary restraining order.
Tareq, 21, and Anmar Aziz, 19, arrived at Washington, D.C.'s Dulles airport this morning at 8 a.m. ET, a stop on the way to their father's home in Flint, Michigan.
The brothers are the primary plaintiffs in a Virginia class-action lawsuit against Trump (Aziz v. Trump).
Their court case made headlines on Friday after an attorney for the Justice Department said in the hearing that "over 100,000" visas had been revoked in the days after the temporary immigration ban was enacted — a number the State Department quickly disputed, saying the number of cancelled visas was closer to 60,000.
Upon landing the brothers expressed relief at being in America, where they both plan to attend college.
"Thank you all, we are so happy we are here. I want to continue my studying," Anmar Aziz told reporters at the airport this morning.
According to the Virginia lawsuit, the executive order took effect while the Aziz brothers were mid-flight. Upon landing on January 28, the brothers were handcuffed, detained, and pressured to sign forms they didn't understand that cancelled their Lawful Permanent Resident status. The brothers were then put on a flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — which is simply where their flight from Djibouti had last stopped.
"They were sent to Ethiopia because that was the airport from which they'd most immediately come," said Tim Wallace, an attorney with the Legal Aid Justice Center. "They spent several days there without access to their luggage and not allowed to leave the terminal while we worked to secure their return. They were eventually deported against their will by Ethiopian officials back to Djibouti where their trip to Dulles had originated."
"When we arrived here (in the U.S.) there was a police officer waiting for us," Tareq Aziz said at the airport Monday. "We were like, why?"
The boys' father, Aqel Muhammed Aziz, said that his sons had nowhere to go upon being sent to Ethiopia.
"They stayed in the airport for maybe four days. Just on the floor, sleeping," Aziz said on Monday, who has lived in Michigan since 2001.
Attorneys from the Legal Aid Justice Center said the way the ban was enforced violated the brothers' rights: "No interpreters were provided to them, and they were put right back on the plane they arrived from."
"There were at least 50 lawyers standing where we are right now," attorney Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg told reporters at Dulles. "And the first thing they would have said if they were allowed back there is: don't sign that form."
The Aziz family wasn't the only one reunited on Monday. The Al Murisi family — also Yemeni, traveling with five children — also arrived at Dulles after being stranded for a week, and immigrants from various countries began to stream into U.S. airports as a result of the ban's temporary stay.
As the Aziz brothers prepared to leave Dulles for their final destination in Michigan, Legal Aid Justice Center attorney Amy Woolard remarked on Twitter that the young men were in good spirits despite the challenges they endured.
"A total cruel nightmare inflicted on these families & still they are so happy to be here, only have gratitude," Woolard tweeted. "The boys are so young."
The Associated Press reported that Iranian researcher Nima Enayati, on a visa to conduct robotic surgery researcher at Stanford, arrived Sunday night at JFK in New York. He had been prevented from boarding a flight the previous week.
"It feels great finally I'm here," Enayati said at JFK. "Considering the last 10 days we had no idea if we'll be able to make it or not."