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Trump’s executive order meant hours spent at Canadian border for Michigan couple

Jan 30, 2017

Farah Al-khersan and her husband
Credit Courtesy of Farah Al-khersan

Across the country, immigration lawyers flocked to airports and border crossings this weekend to help travelers stranded by President Trump’s executive order.

Not all of them, however, were able to offer their services.

Farah Al-khersan, an immigration attorney of West Bloomfield, was blocked from re-entering the United States when she and her husband tried to cross back over from Sarnia Friday night.

Al-khersan is an Iraqi-born United States citizen. Her husband is an Iraqi-born Canadian citizen and lawful permanent resident of the United States.

The couple had been visiting the parents of Al-khersan’s husband in Sarnia when President Trump signed the order blocking travelers from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia.

"Please understand, we were born there. We fled there because of persecution. We haven't been there since the early '90s."

“I’m an immigration attorney, so I had done my research, I had read [the order]," Al-khersan said. “But I wasn’t really prepared for what was to take place. Around 11:30 p.m., I was on my email checking what was going on. I was getting alerts and emails from other attorneys, colleagues, saying, ‘Look, this order is a lot more far-reaching than we thought and the seven designated countries that are classified in the order – anybody who has green cards and was born in one of those countries, or even non-immigrant visas, such as student visas, are going to be affected.’”

Still, Al-khersan thought her husband was safe. He’d been a Canadian citizen for a decade, after all. But at the same time, she recognized the order didn’t clearly state how dual-nationals would be affected.

She decided to wake up her husband and head for the border as soon as possible, to beat the morning rush.

At the border, an officer asked the couple to exit their car and go inside. Nobody could explain what was going on, Al-khersan said.

“The officer then proceeded to ask me and my husband a long range of questions about when we left Iraq – where did we go, how did I naturalize, how did my husband get here, who did we know in Iraq, when was the last time we were in Iraq?” she said. “I said to him, ‘Please understand, we were born there. We fled there because of persecution. We haven’t been there since the early ‘90’s.” 

"I don't think that that's what the U.S. stands for. It's a country of immigrants, it's a country of refugees, and I just hope that President Trump and the rest of the administration remembers that, and that this is having a wide-reaching impact on people all over."

After more than four hours of uncertainty, officials allowed Al-khersan and her husband through.

“I was just overcome with emotion,” she said.

If Al-khersan had a moment to speak with Trump, she said she’d ask him to “please reconsider the ban.”

“I don’t think that that’s what the U.S. stands for,” she said. “It’s a country of immigrants, it’s a country of refugees, and I just hope that President Trump and the rest of the administration remembers that, and that this is having a wide-reaching impact on people all over.”

For the full conversation, including a more detailed account of what Al-khersan experienced Friday night, listen above.

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