In Allentown, Pennsylvania, a Syrian family was forced to stand by and watch as their relatives were deported by the very administration they voted into power.
Originally born in Syria, Ghassan Assali and his wife have lived in the United States since Bill Clinton was the commander-in-chief. Dr. Assali got his dentistry degree from New York University before opening his own practice in Pennsylvania. His wife, Sarmad, whose two brothers, with their wives and children, have been attempting to flee from Syria since 2003. They were finally approved for a residency in America in December 2016.
Unfortunately, Assali’s six relatives arrived just a little too late. They arrived in the United States mere hours after President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning immigration from seven countries, including Syria, that are predominately Muslim for 120 days. The family was quickly detained and taken into holding by U.S. Customs upon arrival.
“Two security guards were waiting for them,” Sarmad Assali told local NBC News. “They took them. They said, ‘Are you Syrians?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ They said, ‘Come with us.’”
Mrs. Assali stated her support for Trump in the general election was backed by a strong desire for strong and secure borders. She had not expected that her candidate’s promises would be applied to her family, since they are not only Orthodox Christians, but also have green cards. Contrary to what Reince Priebus, White House Chief of Staff, stated about the president’s executive order not applying to green card holders, the Assali family’s relatives were still forced to board a plane and return to Syria, despite patiently waiting more than a decade to be reunited 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 has compared the current American government under the candidate he endorsed to the Islamic State, and has expressed his disappointment in the country he has called home for decades, stating that the United States is now issuing 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.”
Tarwack Assali, who has been in the United States for three years, never even had the chance to see his mother, who was part of the family of Syrian deportees.
“I was one hour away from hugging her,” he said. “Seeing her.”
The issue of timing continued to plague the Assali family. Just six hours after they boarded a return flight to Damascus, Syria through Doha, Quatar, a federal circuit judge, Ann Donnelly, made an injunction against the executive order, which allowed those foreigners detained in customs to be released onto American soil.