Refugee Family’s Grandmother Detained on Trump’s Orders

A 77-year-old woman who hasn’t seen her son or his children since he left Iraq four years ago was locked up and will be sent back to the Middle East.

Sarah Bertness

DALLAS -- Khaled Abdaan hasn’t seen his mother since he fled Iraq four years ago with the help of the U.S. government.

On Saturday, he waited at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to see her for the first time. He wouldn’t, thanks to an executive order signed by President Donald Trump on Friday night. Abdaan’s mother, 77-year-old Siham Abaas, was detained off a flight from Dubai on Saturday afternoon. Like countless people being detained in airports across the country, she will likely be sent out of the U.S. on the next available flight.

“An official told me he was just following the law,” Abdaan told The Daily Beast. “I understand that. I myself would enforce the law. But what did my mother do wrong?”

Abdaan’s mother was granted a visa weeks ago to travel to the U.S. to visit him, his wife and their two daughters, he said. By 3 p.m. Saturday, Abdaan hadn’t heard from his mother for two hours.

“I’m disoriented,” he said. “I’m worried because she is older. Has she taken her heart medication? I don’t know.”

Trump's ban was signed on Friday night, and by Saturday morning its effects were first being seen. At JFK International Airport in New York, Hameed Darweesh, an Iraqi man who worked with the U.S. Army overseas had been detained, sparking protests there.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit alleging Darweesh's right to due process had been violated, marking perhaps the first of many lawsuit that may come as a result of Trump's so-called Muslim ban.

In Dallas, Jason Clark of refugee-advocate group Seek the Peace said he expects at least some lawsuits to be filed on behalf of US visa holders like Abaas who had been detained.

Somewhere in the bowels of the Dallas airport, Abaas and nine others from the Dubai flight were being detained by officials. Their friends and family sat in an area reserved for those waiting on international arrivals, usually a joyous occasion. A family waited for their loved ones.

“Welcome home, Jimenez family,” their signs read.

Different signs surrounded where Abdaan others sat.

“The Muslim ban is illegal.”

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“Muslim ban breaking up families.”

“Release those detained at DFW!”

“America welcomes all!”

Not anymore, thanks to Trump.

Abaas texted her son from Dubai after a final check of her visa. She was then let onto the flight and was in the air when Trump signed his order banning entry for 90 days citizens from Iraq and six other predominantly Muslim countries. By the time she arrived, the order was in full effect, and the grandmother of two was detained along with others on the flight where they remained into late afternoon on Saturday.

“They told her they changed the regulations and her visa is not valid anymore,” Abdaan recalled his mother saying in a text. Then, communication stopped.

“She was asking when I’d be able to come see her,” Abdaan said. “I told her I don’t think I can.”

Abdaan’s 9-year-old daughter sat at a table with a sign she’d written before she and her father learned Abaas was being detained.

“Grandma, welcome home,” it read.