A Syrian family living in Allentown, Pennsylvania just watched their relatives get deported right in front of them by the administration they voted for.
Dr. Ghassan Assali and his wife, Sarmad, are originally from Syria but have been in the United States since the Clinton administration. Dr. Assali earned his degree from New York University and has a dentistry practice in Pennsylvania. Sarmad’s two brothers, their wives, and their two children have been trying to flee Syria since 2003, and were finally approved for residency in the United States in December of 2016.
However, when the six Assali relatives arrived in the United States only hours after Donald Trump signed his executive order indefinitely banning immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries (including Syria), they were promptly detained by U.S. Customs.
“Two security guards were waiting for them,” Sarmad Assali told NBC News. “They took them. They said, ‘Are you Syrians?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ They said, ‘Come with us.'”
Assali said her vote for Donald Trump was done out of a desire to see secure borders, though she didn’t expect one of her candidate’s chief campaign promises to be applied to her relatives, who are all Orthodox Christians with green cards. Even though White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus recently stated that Trump’s order wouldn’t apply to green card holders, Assali’s relatives were nonetheless forced to board the next flight to Syria despite waiting over a decade to be with their family in the United States.
“I understand he wants to make America safe,” Assali said. “We’re all on with this. I definitely want to be in a safe place. But people need us and we need to be there for them.”
Ghassan Assali compared the U.S. government under the president he voted for to the Islamic State, expressing disappointment that the country he calls home now issues religious purity tests to immigrants,
“America is not America,” Dr. Assali said. “Like ISIS now, they ask, ‘Are you Christian? What do you believe?’ And if they are not saying what they believe, they kick you out and they cut your head off. So America, same thing. They ask you are you Muslim? You’ve got to change your religion. Thank you.”
One of those deported was the mother of 21-year-old Tarwak Assali, who came to the United States three years ago.
“I was one hour away from hugging her,” he said. “Seeing her.”
The timing of the Assali relatives being deported back to Syria couldn’t have been worse. Only six hours after they boarded a flight to Damascus, Syria through Doha, Qatar, federal judge Ann Donnelly issued an injunction on the order, allowing those detained by customs to be released onto U.S. soil.
Tom Cahill is a writer for US Uncut based in the Pacific Northwest. He specializes in coverage of political, economic, and environmental news. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Facebook.