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Visa Holders Rush to Board US-bound Flights Amid Reprieve

Visa holders from seven majority-Muslim countries affected by President Donald Trump's travel ban hurried to board US-bound flights, fearing they might have only a slim window through which to enter the country after a federal judge temporarily blocked the ban.

Associated Press

Updated:February 5, 2017, 2:16 PM IST
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Visa Holders Rush to Board US-bound Flights Amid Reprieve
Samira Asgari, an Iranian scientist, is greeted by a friend after she cleared U.S. customs and immigration in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. February 3, 2017. REUTERS

Chicago (US): Visa holders from seven majority-Muslim countries affected by President Donald Trump's travel ban hurried to board US-bound flights, fearing they might have only a slim window through which to enter the country after a federal judge temporarily blocked the ban.

Those who could travel immediately were being urged to do so because of uncertainty over whether the Justice Department would be granted an emergency freeze of the order issued Friday by US District Judge James Robart in Seattle.

The government yesterday suspended enforcement of the week-old ban as it scurried to appeal Robart's order, although an immigration lawyer said passengers in at least one African airport were told they couldn't get on the planes.

Rula Aoun, director of the Arab American Civil Rights League in Dearborn, Michigan, told The Detroit News that her group is advising people to hurry.

"We're ... instructing people who can travel immediately to the United States to basically go ahead and do that before anything further happens," Aoun said, adding that one family intends to fly back from Egypt today. Another woman in Egypt, who had been denied a visa, is booking her flight to come as soon as possible, said Aoun, whose group filed a lawsuit Tuesday in federal court in Detroit asking a judge to declare Trump's immigration order unconstitutional.

US officials have said up to 60,000 foreigners had their visas "provisionally revoked" to comply with Trump's order.

Among them was Ammar Alnajjar, a 24-year-old Yemeni green card holder and student at Southwest Tennessee Community College who had traveled to Turkey to visit his fiancee and planned to stay for three months. When he heard the ban was lifted, he paid USD 1,000 to come back immediately. He arrived at John F Kennedy International Airport yesterday.

"I got to study. I got to do some work," said Alnajjar, who said he fled civil war in Yemen and moved to the US from Turkey in 2015. "I'm Muslim. I'm proud of it. Islam means peace."

Although the government suspended enforcement of the travel ban while it sought an emergency stay of Robart's order, some airlines reportedly still weren't letting some people from the seven countries board their planes, at least initially.

Royal Jordanian Airlines, which operates direct flights from Amman to New York, Chicago and Detroit, said it would resume carrying nationals from the seven countries as long as they presented a valid US visa or green card.

But in the African nation of Djibouti, immigration attorney Julie Goldberg said a Qatar Airways representative told her that immigrants from all seven countries affected by the ban Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, Iran and Somalia were not allowed to fly yesterday afternoon. A Qatar Airways spokeswoman said the airline would begin boarding travelers from those countries.

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