After big scare, family reunited despite Trump immigration order

Anshur and Adan's family is reunited
Farhan Anshur, third from left, is reunited with his wife Binto Adan and their two children at the Dulles airport.
Courtesy of Farhan Anshur.

Farhan Anshur was expecting to greet his wife and kids at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Saturday evening after they flew in from Nairobi, Kenya.

But that morning, the Somali-American truck driver from Willmar got a phone call from a federal officer at the Dulles airport in Washington where the family had landed.

According to relatives, the officer told Anshur that the agency sent his wife and kids back to Africa.

Anshur wavered between panic and disbelief, according to his nephew Najib Abi.

"It was a crazy moment. We were confused and saying, 'How is that going to happen? Someone comes to the USA on 8 a.m. on Saturday — how can they deport back within two hours? Is that even possible?'" Abi recalled. "I said, 'I don't think that's going to happen.'"

It turns out, Abi was right: The family had not been returned to Nairobi.

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But it was the beginning of an 18-hour ordeal that at times left the couple thinking they would miss each other so close to the finish line.

The family's story is just one of countless instances of chaos and confusion produced by President Donald Trump's new immigration restrictions, the effects of which are still rippling across the world.

Trump's order temporarily blocks people from Somalia and six other Muslim countries from entering the U.S.

That meant more than 100 travelers who were already in transit were detained and questioned at airports over the weekend, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a lawsuit challenging the president's order.

Anshur's wife and kids had already gone through a two-year vetting process, relatives said.

Binto Adan, Anshur's wife, had just gotten her green card. Anshur, who came to the U.S. a decade ago, is a U.S. citizen, and so are his children.

Abi, the nephew, said his aunt told him the kids were crying at the airport because they wanted to be with their dad. The situation was made worse by communication problems.

"The problem was, she doesn't speak much English, and the customs, they didn't use an interpreter," Abi said. "There was a language barrier. She doesn't speak English, they don't speak Somali. So who's going to translate?"

But a federal judge's order temporarily blocking part of Trump's actions changed everything.

Anshur soon learned that his wife and kids would be released.

Anshur and Abi scrambled to find last-minute plane tickets to Washington, and they picked them up from the airport around 2 a.m. Sunday.

Abi said his aunt was clearly exhausted and frustrated.

Shortly after they reunited, Abi said his aunt asked, "Why did you say America is a free place?"

"I told her, 'No, this is an individual act. You may have had a bad experience, but America is the best place to live,'" Abi recalled.

Trump said his order is about keeping the nation safe from "radical Islamic terrorists." Many Minnesotans who voted for him say they're glad he's taking swift action on his campaign pledge.

But Abdinasir Abdulahi, a Minneapolis immigration attorney who helped the family over the weekend, said he doesn't believe Trump's travel restrictions are protecting the country.

Trump is signing sweeping federal action based on short-sighted tweets, Abdulahi said.

"He's trying to turn 140 characters into an executive order," he said. "And that is causing confusion in our community and around the globe."

The bigger story in the weeks and months to come involves all the refugees and immigrants already in the pipeline who are waiting to be resettled here, Abdulahi said.

He said those pending applications guarantee a bumpy road ahead.