Sea-Tac Airport on Monday saw the return of the first man turned away at the airport because of President Trump’s travel ban.
Clutching his wife’s arm and holding a bouquet of flowers, the first man turned away from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport after President Trump’s travel ban arrived back in Seattle on Monday.
Somali native Isahaq Ahmed Rabi looked a little stunned but gamely waved and murmured “thank you” at a news conference shortly after his late-morning arrival. There to greet him were Gov. Jay Inslee, Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Port of Seattle Commission President Tom Albro.
It was another day of reunions at Sea-Tac as people trying to get into the country rushed to take advantage of Seattle federal-court Judge James Robart’s Friday afternoon ruling staying Trump’s order, which banned entry to anyone from seven predominantly Muslim countries and temporarily stopped all inflow of refugees.
Nobody knew how long the open window might last. Even as Rabi and others joined family members at the airport, lawyers on both side of the case were working furiously on the appeal now before the 9th Circuit.
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For now, the tone of state officials, buoyed by an initial, sweeping victory in the lawsuit Ferguson brought against the Trump administration, was celebratory.
“This is such a joy in so many ways,” Inslee said. “Today we have one more person that’s going to help build the state of Washington.”
“I, too, Mr. Rabi, want to welcome you,” added Ferguson, turning around to give the new arrival a hug.
He and his staff had been so busy working on their legal challenge that they hadn’t had time to see the reunions that they had brought about, he said. And so, he added, he was excited to meet Rabi in person.
“One thing I want to say,” he continued, “The law is not an abstraction … There are real people’s lives impacted.”
Also on hand was Rabi’s cousin, Boeing engineer Said Abdi-dhahar, and several other family members, some holding balloons.
“I want to also to let Mr. Rabi know that what happened on Saturday … does not reflect the reality of this country and the values this nation holds dear,” Abdi-dhahar said.
Rabi had been living in Vienna and was here to join his wife, an American citizen originally from Somalia.
He was approved for a green card, according to his attorney, Carol Edward. It didn’t matter. Before he could see his wife or any of the family members who had come to meet him Jan. 28, he was put on a plane back to Vienna.
Jayne and Allen Novak also were reunited Monday.
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Allen Novak, an Iranian dentist, had been trying for a week to fly from Tehran with his 17-year-old daughter, Nikta. They bought tickets on two different airlines. Each time they tried to board, they were turned away.
“We made it — finally,” said Allen Novak, 65. “We’re just going to go home and rest.”
“And get some Domino’s pizza on the way,” chimed in Jayne Novak, a 53-year-old nurse who lives in Silverdale.
The couple met in 1987 when both were working at a Domino’s Pizza in California. She, an American, took a job as a driver while in college. He, a green-card holder, was her manager, his dental degree not valid in the U.S.
The two started dating, but Novak decided to return to Iran. Decades later, they got back in touch. Two years ago, they married in Turkey.
They’d been working since then on getting visas for Allen Novak and his daughter; he didn’t have a valid green card after all his years in Iran. Just as everything was lined up, Trump issued his executive order.
The president’s action also led to a week of turmoil and heartache for Omar Alithawi.
A Bothell resident for nearly five years and a green-card holder, Alithawi had flown to his native Baghdad in January, planning to bring his wife, Nisreen, back to the U.S. She’d secured a long-term visa, after years of trying, on Jan. 5.
Their flight left Baghdad on Jan. 29, two days after the travel ban was issued. Alithawi, with a green card, arrived at Sea-Tac on schedule. His wife, with just a visa, was left stranded.
But after Robart’s order, Alithawi bought his wife another ticket. It had her arriving in the U.S. Monday night. On Sunday he got nervous and found an earlier flight — arriving at 6:35 a.m.
It went off without a hitch. Nisreen was home taking a nap later Monday morning.
“Because she’s feeling very happy she started crying and she told me I can’t imagine what would happen,” Alithawi said. “ … She was thinking she cannot come to the United States and cannot make a family but now she feels happy.”
He had one message he wanted to make sure made it into The Seattle Times:
“Judge James Robart, just want to tell him thank you so much for supporting freedom in the United States.”
Information in this article, originally published Feb. 6, 2017, was corrected Feb. 6, 2017. A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed a quote by Gov. Jay Inslee.