The Assali family (2 brothers, their wives, and two teen children) began the process of obtaining their visas to immigrate to the United States in 2003, while living in Syria. When they started the process, Syria was not a war-torn country; they simply wanted to join their family. However, as time went on, the danger of the Syrian war compelled them to do everything possible to leave the country and come to the US. Finally, 13 years later, in December of 2016, they were approved to move here to join the rest of their extended family in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where they have many relatives who have lived here for decades and had prepared a home for them. The Syrian Assalis decided to wait until January so that they could spend one final Christmas with their loved ones who were remaining in Syria. On January 27, 2017, they embarked on a lengthy trip to the United States, which included hours of road travel and 18 hours of air time. Upon arriving at Philadelphia International Airport on January 28, 2017, they were immediately detained in accordance with the new executive order signed by Donald Trump. Then, without knowing their rights and without the benefit of a translator, their passports were confiscated, their visas were "cancelled" and they were put on a flight to Qatar. All of this was without a single phone call permitted. Once they arrived in Qatar, they were forced to leave and drive home to Damascus. There they remain, awaiting word on the future of their status in the United States.
Thanks to the efforts of their American family, and many community activists and lawyers, their cause will be fought in the courts this week. The outcome is uncertain. If they are successful, they will incur huge expenses in connection with travel back to the States. They had already depleted their life savings to come to America, only to have that dream destroyed and their finances eradicated.
This is a family of immigrants who went through every proper legal channel to obtain visas to this country. They never sought asylum (although they could have) because they wanted to "follow all the rules." But once they arrived, they found that the government of the country they had longed to live in had turned against them.
Let's ensure that once the legal questions are settled*, they can afford their flight back here and reunite with their family.
*This is an ongoing legal proceeding, and the Assalis' future is not yet determined. If the worst occurs and they are unable to reenter the United States, the funds raised here will be redirected to an organization dedicated to ensuring others do not face the same fate (e.g. the ACLU). If they are successful, any funds in excess of what they need for travel will be distributed to them for initial living expenses in the U.S.
- Cody West
- Annette Durrant
Organizer and beneficiary
Susan Ellis Wild