LOS ANGELES (CN) – An Iranian citizen sent back to Tehran under President Donald Trump’s travel ban returned to the United States on Thursday after a Los Angeles federal judge ordered he should be allowed to enter the country.
Ali Vayeghan held a valid U.S. visa but was detained by border agents at LAX this past Friday following Trump’s executive order, which bars entry from seven majority-Muslim countries including Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
After waiting 12 years plus the nearly weeklong ordeal following the Trump travel ban, Vayeghan was finally reunited with his brother Hossein Vayghan and niece Marjan Vayghan at the Tom Bradley International Terminal on Thursday afternoon.
He was greeted by a throng of press and supporters holding banners with the words “Welcome Home” and “Let Them In.” Supporters sang “This Land is Your Land.”
Hossein Vayghan said he was delighted that his brother was finally home.
"He's happy too, but it's the first time he's coming here,” Vayghan said as the two brothers kissed each other on the cheek. “He'll go home and relax and see what's going to happen.”
He added that after his brother’s ordeal, the first order of business was for him to get a good night’s sleep.
Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order led to confusion and chaos at airports across the country. Thousands of protesters descended on LAX after reports that travelers had been detained or deported. U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee on Sunday issued an order that allowed Vayeghan to travel back to LAX.
Gee granted a temporary restraining order in the case Vayeghan v. Kelly, after the ACLU and immigration lawyer Stacy Tolchin filed a habeas petition on his behalf. Unfortunately for Vayeghan, the order came too late. He had already been forced to leave the United States on a flight to Dubai.
Speaking at a press conference in the baggage claim area as Vayeghan was going through airport security, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti called Trump’s order unconstitutional and heralded the city as a place that welcomes immigrants and refugees.
“The moment we're about to witness shouldn't be an extraordinary moment. Families reunite at airports every day. But unconstitutional executive actions taken by our president have made this a moment to celebrate. When a visa holder is allowed into a country, when Mr. Vayeghan will become the first person sent out of the U.S. travel ban who has been allowed to return, this is a good day for Los Angeles. This is a good day for America,” Garcetti said.
Garcetti said that there are 170,000 people who come from nations affected by the ban.
“It does not speak to who we are as a nation, it does not speak to who we are as Angelenos, when we say play by the rules and then we suddenly change them,” Garcetti said. “We don't shut the door on refugees. We are a city of sanctuary, of refuge.”
Standing in front of her father and a row of supporters, Marjan Vayghan said her uncle had left Tehran a week ago to fly to the United States. He had been scheduled to land Friday evening, and his family waited until the early hours of the next morning to meet him. He did not show.
“Instead he was detained and we didn't even know why, and we didn't know where. And our frantic family was refused all information at first,” she said. “It was like a really terrible spy novel that just got way too real. It still feels like a dream.”
Vayeghan is the only traveler to have returned to the United States under Gee's order, the ACLU said in a statement.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte lifted parts of Trump’s order after 28 people fleeing war-torn Yemen contested the ban. Their attorney Julie Goldberg said Wednesday that despite Birotte’s ruling, border patrol agents and the Department of Homeland Security were refusing to allow her clients to board their plane.
Tolchin said she was waiting to see how the Trump administration would defend the court actions.
“If we at all see there's a violation of any order that's been issued by district court judge then we will go back to that judge for a contempt order,” Tolchin said.
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