PHILADELPHIA – A Syrian family that had been denied entry into the United States at the Philadelphia International Airport on January 28 has received assurances that they will be allowed to enter the United States. The family is now on their way to New York City, the legal team representing them announced in a statement.
After intervention and negotiation by Congressman Charlie Dent (R-PA), the Asali family left Syria earlier on Sunday and is scheduled to arrive at John F. Kennedy International Airport at 9:25am on Monday.
A team of public interest lawyers, including lawyers from the ACLU of Pennsylvania, HIAS Pennsylvania, and cooperating counsel, had filed suit on behalf of the Asalis after they were denied entry into the country, their visas were cancelled, and they returned to Syria, just hours after the implementation of President Trump’s executive order banning persons entering from seven countries, including Syria.
“We are grateful for Congressman Dent’s leadership and his efforts to right this wrong for the Asalis,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “The executive order is illegal, and its implementation was botched from the start. The ACLU will continue to challenge this order until it is ultimately overturned.”
The Asalis will join family in the United States. Ghassan Assali is a naturalized citizen who lives in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and had always hoped that his brothers, Basam and Hassan Asali, their wives, Jozfin and Jurfeet, and Hassan’s two children could join him in the United States. Ghassan and his brothers started the process for federal approval for entry in 2003 and received final clearance on December 19, 2016.
“Our family would like to take this opportunity to extend our most gracious thanks for all of the love and support that we have received during this difficult and uncertain time,” said Sarmad Assali, Ghassan Assali’s spouse. “Words cannot express our gratitude.”
The U.S.-based Assalis spell their last name differently than their Syrian relatives due to the Arabic-to-English translation of their name during the naturalization process.
“All of us who worked on the lawful return of the family see the work as part of our responsibilities as American citizens,” said Joseph Hohenstein, cooperating counsel from Landau, Hess, Simon and Choi, who worked on the case. “We are only seeking to fulfill the promises of this country based in political and religious freedom and opportunity for those who work hard.”
Meanwhile, the lawyers who are representing the Asalis are also representing Fatemeh Sheikhi, an Iranian woman who was also denied entry and returned to Iran on January 28. Sheikhi, a retired educator, had planned to visit her daughters, who are doctoral students studying in the United States.
The legal team is continuing to negotiate on Sheikhi’s behalf and will announce developments in her case as they are available.
Court rulings around the country have blocked implementation of the executive order. On Sunday morning, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected the government’s request to immediately reinstate the executive order pending further litigation.
The attorneys involved in these efforts include Joe Hohenstein, of Landau, Hess, Simon and Choi; Ayodele Gansallo, of HIAS Pennsylvania; Mary Catherine Roper and Molly Tack-Hooper of the ACLU of Pennsylvania; John Grogan, Ned Diver, Irv Ackelsberg, and Peter Leckman of Langer, Grogan & Diver LLP; Paul Messing, Jonathan Feinberg, and Susan Lin of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg LLP; Susan Wild of Gross McGinley LLP; and Jonathan Grode, of Green and Spiegel LLC.
Information about the case is available at aclupa.org/asali.