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Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi

Hameed Khalid Darweesh and Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi

This is who the now-injuncted executive order suspending refugee resettlement and immigration visas from certain countries was supposed to “protect” us from.

The lawyers said that one of the Iraqis detained at Kennedy Airport, Hameed Khalid Darweesh, had worked on behalf of the U.S. government in Iraq for 10 years. The other, Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, was coming to the United States to join his wife, who had worked for a U.S. contractor, and young son, the lawyers said. They said both men were detained at the airport Friday night after arriving on separate flights.

[…]

In the arrivals hall at Terminal 4 of Kennedy Airport, Doss and two other lawyers fought fatigue as they tried to learn the status of their clients on the other side of the security perimeter.

“We’ve never had an issue once one of our clients was at a port of entry in the United States,” Doss said. “To see people being detained indefinitely in the country that’s supposed to welcome them is a total shock.”

“These are people with valid visas and legitimate refugee claims who have already been determined by the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to be admissible and to be allowed to enter the U.S. and now are being unlawfully detained,” Doss said.

[…]

According to the filing, Hameed Khalid Darweesh was granted a special immigrant visa on Jan. 20, the same day as Trump’s inauguration. He worked with the United States in Iraq in a variety of jobs — as an interpreter, engineer and contractor — over the course of roughly a decade.

Darweesh worked as an interpreter for the Army’s 101st Airborne Division in Baghdad and Mosul starting shortly after the invasion of Iraq on April 1, 2003. The filing said that he was directly targeted twice for working with the U.S. military.

A husband and father of three, he arrived at Kennedy Airport Friday evening with his family. Darweesh’s wife and children made it through passport control and customs, but agents of Customs and Border Protection stopped and detained him.

Alshawi was supposed to be reunited with his wife, who has been living in Texas. The wife, who asked to be identified by her first initial of D. out of concern for her and her family’s safety, wiped away tears as she sat on a couch in her sister’s house early Saturday, in a Houston suburb.

The woman, a 32-year-old who was born in Iraq, met her husband while both were students at a Baghdad college. The couple has one child — a 7-year-old son who is in first grade. The boy was asleep in the house at 3 a.m. Eastern time Saturday, oblivious to the fact that his father was in the United States, but under detention and the possible threat of return to Iraq.

Relatives crowded the living room in their pajamas and slippers, making and receiving phone calls to and from other relatives and the refugee’s lawyers. At times, D. was so emotional she had trouble speaking about her husband’s predicament.

She pulled out her cellphone and flipped through her pictures while seated on the couch. She wanted to show a reporter a picture she took of her son’s letter to Santa Claus. In November, at a Macy’s Santa-letter display at a nearby mall, the boy wrote out his wish: “Dear Santa: Can you bring my Dad from Sweden pls.” He has not seen his father in three years.

“I’m really breaking down, because I don’t know what to do,” she said. “It’s not fair.”

She and her relatives had not told her son that his father was finally coming to Houston and that his wish to Santa was about to come true. “It was a surprise for him,” she said.

Thankfully, there is a good ending to this particular story.

An Iraqi refugee bound for Houston was released on Saturday night after being detained for 22 hours at JFK Airport. He was one of the first people prevented from entering the U.S. under President Donald Trump’s executive orders restricting immigration and is central to a lawsuit challenging the order.

A temporary stay was granted by a federal judge in the case late Saturday that allows detainees with visas at airports to stay in the country temporarily.

Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi was on his way to live with his wife and 7-year-old son, who had previously come to Houston as refugees. “I’m very happy,” he told a small group of reporters at the Terminal 4 arrivals hall through an interpreter. He wore a black jacket and gray shirt and had a full face of stubble. “I’m very tired, but I’m very happy,” he said.

[…]

Alshawi was one of two Iraqi refugees named as plaintiffs in an ACLU lawsuit on Saturday morning against the Trump administration, alleging that the executive orders violated the Fifth Amendment and the Immigration and Nationality Act. The other plaintiff in the ACLU lawsuit, Hameed Khalid Darweesh, a former interpreter for the U.S. Army, was released from JFK after 17 hours of detention and an intervention from two members of Congress.

The ACLU lawyer handling the case, Andre Segura, said he hadn’t been allowed to meet with Alshawi at all before his release. It’s not clear exactly who made the decision to let Alshawi go free— Segura said about 30 minutes before Alshawi was released, a Customs and Border Protection official told him the order had come “from the top.”

Alshawi is staying in New York Saturday and flying to Houston to meet his family Sunday. “I’m going to hug them for a very long time,” he said.

All this happened because of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU and a swift ruling by a judge. That any of this happened at all is a national disgrace, though sadly not a surprise. We can argue the politics and legalities of this all we want, but I’m going to close with this:

“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. Before him all the nations will be gathered, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will tell those on his right hand, ‘Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you; or thirsty, and give you a drink? When did we see you as a stranger, and take you in; or naked, and clothe you? When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?’

“The King will answer them, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Then he will say also to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you didn’t give me food to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and you didn’t take me in; naked, and you didn’t clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

“Then they will also answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and didn’t help you?’

“Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you didn’t do it to one of the least of these, you didn’t do it to me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Were you a sheep or a goat in this story?