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‘We deported your wife and kids’: One Minnesota family comes face-to-face with chaos of Trump immigration order

President Donald Trump’s latest executive order, which bars people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States and suspends entry of all refugees for months, sparked a weekend of outrage and confusion, especially among Somali-Americans in Minnesota.

“This executive order has created confusion within the community,” said Abdinasir Abdulahi, a longtime immigration attorney who worked with several Somali clients on the issues over the weekend. “People who had valid visas, people who already had lawful permanent residence were detained. It was complete chaos that nobody knew what was going on.”

That was certainly true for Najib Abi and his family, one of several Somali-American families in Minnesota who came to face-to-face with that chaos over the weekend.  

‘We deported your wife and kids’

On Friday, two days after the president ordered the construction of the U.S.-Mexico wall and his priorities for the deportation of undocumented immigrants, Trump signed another order that prevents people from Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Sudan and Yeman — all Muslim-majority counties — from entering the U.S. for three months.

Yet the restriction applies not only to potential refugees but also to those the U.S. security agencies have already cleared after a years-long, intense vetting process — a system that involves multiple interviews with American intelligence officials and a series of medical examinations. 

The Trump administration didn’t notify hundreds of refugees and permanent residents who were scheduled to arrive over the weekend about the travel ban, creating chaos and confusion at airports nationwide as the ban came into effect. 

Abi, a cultural liaison with Willmar Public Schools who spoke to MinnPost from the Detroit airport on Sunday evening, went to bed on Friday night not knowing the fate of his uncle’s wife, Binto Adan, and their 8-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter. They were scheduled to land at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport at 6 a.m. on Saturday after traveling from Nairobi, Kenya, where they’d just completed the two-year-plus refugee vetting process. 

Minutes before the landing, Abi and his uncle, Farah Anshur, showed up at the airport, Abi said. Three hours passed without any information of their family’s whereabouts.

The family of Najib Abi
Courtesy of Najib Abi
The family of Najib Abi

Finally at 10 a.m., Anshur’s phone rang. It was an officer from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — which is responsible for deporting undocumented immigrants and criminal permanent residents — calling from Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C.

The officer told Anshur: “We deported your wife and kids.”

Confused and frustrated, Abi and Anshur didn’t know what to do next. So they drove back to Willmar. Two hours later, the officer called back — this time with different information: “We have your wife and kids,” he told Anshur. “The kids are fine. We checked their files; they are U.S. citizens [their father was a U.S. citizen at the time of their birth]. But the mom will be sent back.”

Anshur asked the officer if they could wait until he reached the Dulles Airport to see his wife before she was repatriated. The officer hung up the phone without saying a word.

‘Your wife and kids will be released’

Uncertain of how the case might end or whom they should turn to for answers, Abi and Anshur made their way to the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport again — this time to board a plane to get Adan and her two young children from Dulles.

In Washington, meanwhile, ICE officials were telling Adan to sign forms that would permit them to send her back without the children. She refused to sign, insisting she would not do anything without the presence of her husband.

By the time Anshur and Abi landed in Washington at 11 p.m. Saturday, however, a federal judge in New York had blocked the order that sought to send travelers back to their countries.

The decision by Judge Ann M. Donnelly protected 100 to 200 lawful travelers who were detained in airports across the United States — and rescued them from deportation.

Anshur’s family was one of them. Because of Donnelly’s order, Abi and Anshur received a much different message from an ICE official via voicemail when they got to Washington: “Congratulations! Your wife and kids will be released. Give us a call when you come.”

Brian Coyle Center rally
MinnPost photo by Ibrahim Hirsi
Community members opposing President Trump’s executive order rallied outside of the Brian Coyle Center in Minneapolis on Sunday.

When they got to the airport, the officer greeted them and asked them to wait until some paperwork was finalized. That took another 3 three hours. 

Finally, at 2 a.m. Sunday morning, the two children were reunited with their father. More than once, Adan was threatened with handcuffs and was left with her children without food or drink throughout the 20-hour airport detention, Abi said. 

“When we first saw her,” Abi said of Adan, “the first thing she said was, ‘Why did you used to tell me America is a free country?’”  

Comments (22)

  1. Submitted by C.S. Senne on 01/30/2017 - 11:31 am.

    Despot

    What have we not learned from history? This dark, alternative “reality” is only the beginning. A minority of Americans elected a malignancy. Those of his own party stand by spineless and tongue-tied. My “Congress person” Erik Paulsen keeps his innocent head down while he schedules elementary school “meetings” to read to school children. Trump’s acolytes preach a strange “Christianity” that is difficult to recognize. Are we going to allow this demagogue to tear down all that America stands for? Erik Paulsen, Paul Ryan, & Mitch McConnell, what say you?

    • Submitted by Curt Carlson on 02/05/2017 - 11:28 am.

      Nothing new for Paulsen

      I suspect Erik Paulsen will continue the pattern he’s followed since his first election: he’ll posture and campaign as a moderate in the Jim Ramstad mold, while voting with the most reactionary elements of his party, all the while avoiding any direct engagement with his constituents. It’s worked for him so far, why should he change?

  2. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 01/30/2017 - 11:47 am.

    We need a constant drumbeat of articles like this one, that tell the awful stories of what America under Trump and Bannon is doing to destroy our very essence, destroy our most sacred values and history. The Trump administration has begun to show not only that it is cruel, it is exponentially more cruel for the ineptitude and chaos it is displaying.

    The people who elected Trump are the ones who bear the responsibility for these travesties, and we should hold to account. Starting, of course, with Paul Ryan, who thinks that all this is fine.

  3. Submitted by Julie Moore on 01/30/2017 - 11:48 am.

    Frightened and Confused!

    I cannot imagine how terrifying this must have been for an 8 and 9 year old! It is bad enough for adults! I think the right hand didn’t know what the left hand was doing when this order was signed. No thought was even given to the actual effects. I have to agree with the comment above that Erik Paulsen’s being quiet is kind of showing him to just be a party puppet. Even if I disagree with what is said, I would rather have them stating their position than sitting in a hole.

  4. Submitted by Helen Hunter on 01/30/2017 - 12:36 pm.

    Another drumbeater

    It’s not too early to get impeachment going. Al Franken told Rachel Maddow the Democrats “have a strategy”.
    Al (et al!): let impeachment be a major part of your strategy!
    You’re right, Ms Sullivan (or Constance, if that’s all right), it’s the cruelty that is the worst. After two years’ stringent vetting to win refugee status, Binto Adan was arbitrarily told that NONE OF THAT MEANT ANYTHING. Her safety and the safety of her children had been taken away by a stroke of the Chief Malignant Narcissist’s pen. Indeed, what else could she think but that America is not the free country her husband had told her it was!
    Adding to the cruelty were threats to put her in handcuffs, withholding food, urging her (in a strange and frightening situation) to sign a paper SAYING SHE WOULD GO BACK TO THE REFUGEE CAMP LEAVING HER CHILDREN ALONE!
    (How odd that they didn’t dispense with a signature entirely. No, I forgot: they wanted something to prove that she’d agreed to be deported AND TO LEAVE HER CHILDREN ALONE IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY!)
    Fortunately, Binto Adan refused to be intimidated, an action for which her name will be remembered in her family, her culture, Minnesota and the country. Congratulations and blessings, Binto Adan! You are a blessing to our country already.
    The cruelty was also practiced on her husband and family, either from routine ICE lying, or the insane confusion the CMN had created with his signature on the order: they were first told Binto Adan and the children had ALREADY BEEN DEPORTED, then that “the kids were fine” (a strange way of describing children whose mother was threatened to be taken from them) but “the mom would be sent back”, then “never mind, it was all a mistake. Congratulations! We’re happy etcetc.”
    “The mom”. No name, a nameless mom would be sent away from her children and back to a refugee camp after spending 2 years obtaining legal refugee status.
    No one ought to have the power to create cruelty, confusion, despair. Let’s take that pen out of his hands. There’s no heart or brain anywhere in donald trump.
    Welcome to America, Binto Adan and children. We’ll try to make it a better country than the one you first came to.

  5. Submitted by Julie Moore on 01/30/2017 - 01:32 pm.

    Erik Paulsen

    Guess he is reading our posts: http://patch.com/minnesota/lakeminnetonka/s/g0l44/republican-rep-erik-paulsen-criticizes-trump-immigration-order?utm_source=alert-breakingnews&utm_medium=email&utm_term=politics%20%26%20government&utm_campaign=alert

  6. Submitted by Mike Chrun on 01/30/2017 - 03:08 pm.

    It’s Maddening

    that the party that has wrapped itself in the cloth of Christianity has so little regard or empathy for people who have suffered for years. The despair and havoc created by this cynical sociopath is awful enough, but the cowardice displayed by those Republican “Christian” congressmen is equally despicable. On any sort of level this is amazingly stupid and short-sighted. The hatred spawned by Trump will produce many more terrorists to make up for the very small chance that someone with evil intentions would have come into our country.

    • Submitted by Bill Willy on 01/30/2017 - 11:01 pm.

      Amen

      I’ve been wondering where the Christian Church has been for the last 30 or 40 years (at least).

      Based on what appears to be the majority of Christian’s real world effort to live in accordance with the teachings of the person the religion was founded on, words like disgusting, shameful, profoundly hypocritical and sad have this way of coming to mind.

      What would Jesus do indeed.

  7. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 01/30/2017 - 09:38 pm.

    Seems like much of the problem

    Was ICE, or at least a few of it’s workers.

    • Submitted by Bill Willy on 01/31/2017 - 12:58 pm.

      Yessiree

      They, like the entire world, seemed to be a little short on guidance and comprehension of whatever the president’s new approach to vetting consists of. It seemed like they were being expected to ask people questions that would (somehow) shed more light on their documented reality than the existing screening system had already done which, it seemed to me, put them in a really tough position that led to a raft of bizarre outcomes like:

      “We deported your wife and kids” which, a few hours later, morphed into:

      “The kids are fine. We checked their files; they are U.S. citizens. But the mom will be sent back” which eventually settled on down to:

      “Congratulations! Your wife and kids will be released. Give us a call when you come.”

      Could have saved those people (and a fair share of the world) a LOT of hassle if they’d just skipped the whole thing in the first place. There wouldn’t have been any more people from those countries committing terrorist attacks in the U.S. than there have been in the past 50 or 100 years and those ICE agents and airport security people wouldn’t have had to stumble around trying to outdo the existing system (that had been asking people questions and double-checking their answers and then double-checking them again for a couple years before they got to the security gate).

  8. Submitted by joe smith on 01/31/2017 - 03:54 am.

    In 2011 Obama paused the immigration of folks

    from Iran, not sure I saw the outrage by the left over that…. I for one, am ok with a pause to get our vetting up to par for folks coming over from the 7 countries who promote terror and without the ability to validate information the travelers claim. I didn’t see protests when Obama did it but then again hypocricy is at an all time high by many.

    • Submitted by Bill Willy on 01/31/2017 - 12:25 pm.

      Incredible, fantastic vetting . . . Fantastic vetting

      “get our vetting up to par”

      What does “up to par” mean? What (specifically) will “extreme vetting” do that isn’t being done now?

      “for folks coming over from the 7 countries who promote terror”

      How many people have been killed in America in terrorist attacks by immigrants or regugees from those seven countries; and how much lower is that number likely to go once “extreme vetting” is put in place?

      “and without the ability to validate information the travelers claim.”

      If that’s true — if those seven countries aren’t capable of supplying the required information — how will it be possible for those performing “extreme vetting” to get the information THEY need to get things “up to par”?

      And by the way . . . Do you have, or are you aware of, any information regarding the content of the president’s extreme vetting plan? I ask because I haven’t been able to find much so don’t know what the plan consists of or how a person would compare it to what already exists or see how it would improve things.

      I found this on his web site. It was posted there on December 7th, 2015:

      “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

      http://www.donaldjtrump.com/press-releases/donald-j.-trump-statement-on-preventing-muslim-immigration

      Although he has stated that his travel ban on the countries you mentioned has nothing to do with religion, it seems that he’s now in the process of fulfilling at least PART of that campaign promise. But the problem is, I couldn’t find any details as to how his plan would work AFTER “our country’s representatives figure out what is going on.”

      All I could find that shed any light at all was this brief explanation from last August:

      “Donald Trump has outlined a new screening process for would-be immigrants designed to exclude Islamic extremists that he promoted Monday as ‘extreme vetting.’ The policy would attempt to establish whether applicants’ beliefs match US values on gay rights, gender equality and religious freedoms, among others.

      “With little in the way of specifics from the Republican presidential candidate the proposed vetting reforms have raised questions about how officials would assess the validity of applicants’ responses and whether an overhaul of the immigration screening process would work.”

      http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/16/politics/how-us-vets-immigrants-donald-trump-extreme-vetting/

      There may be more detail that you’re aware of, but if that’s the basic meaning of “extreme vetting,” does it line up with what you’re saying about getting our vetting system up to par?

      Does up to par mean screening everyone wanting to enter the U.S. (regardless of country of origin or religion) to make sure their beliefs match U.S. values on things like gay rights, gender equality and religious freedoms?

      And, when it comes to that, what ARE those “U.S. values”? Are we for gay rights and gender equality (including same-sex marriage) or are we opposed to those things (and exercising our religious freedom when we act on that opposition)?

      Would, or should, Americans be subject to that type of extreme vetting when they leave and then return to the country after visiting places where the majority of people don’t seem to share our values?

      And what would happen if the people doing the “extreme vetting” decided some of those American’s beliefs did NOT match U.S. values? Would they be in violation of the law and seen as a potential threat to American Order? If so, would they need to be arrested or deported (to their “country of ethic origin”?) or what?

      And, as the CNN article pointed out, how would the screener determine whether or not the person being interviewed was lying about their beliefs?

      And, if getting basic everyday practical information from some countries is, as you said, impossible, how would a screener verify the information related to people’s stated beliefs? Is there a beliefs database somewhere the screener could check?

      Just trying to get a grip on how it all might work, once we get past this non-religious ban on people coming into the country.

      And, if you know, is the president’s “extreme vetting” plan the kind of thing that needs to be vetted and voted on by the Congress or is it a case of the president being able to do whatever he thinks is best for our “national security”?

      • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 01/31/2017 - 07:11 pm.

        It is true

        That the perpetrators of 9/11 amounted to only a handful of people. But I still believe that prevention is a good idea. Realistically only a percentage of people die from cancer or car accidents or slipping in the bathtub, yet we, as a nation, continue to try and reduce the risk.

    • Submitted by Terry McDanel on 01/31/2017 - 08:20 pm.

      Mr. Smith, you are misinformed about Obama’s “ban”

      http://www.snopes.com/president-obama-ban-muslims-2011/

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/03/2017 - 09:36 am.

      Isn’t This Getting Old?

      How many times does this story have to be repeated, and then debunked, before it is retired?

      Can’t rightists come up with something new? How about the Bowling Green Massacre?

  9. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 01/31/2017 - 11:32 am.

    Stopping immigration is one thing

    abruptly banning people in mid-journey who have already been approved for permanent residency or preventing holders of green cards or student visas from returning to the U.S. is quite another.

  10. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 01/31/2017 - 11:36 am.

    In fact–and I just looked this up–

    Obama’s ban was about suspending new applications for entry, not for turning back people who had already been approved or holders of green cards or student visas.

    It certainly didn’t involve holding small children or frail elderly people (who held valid visas) at airports or deporting them without due process.

  11. Submitted by Amy Wilde on 01/31/2017 - 08:00 pm.

    Legal action coming?

    Hopefully Binto Aban and her family can join some class action suit against Donald Trump and/or the Executive Branch to compensate them for the extra airfare, lodging, and meal expense this outrageous detention cost the family. Generous “pain and suffering” damages would also be in order. This type of detention is frightening to the average civilian, not to mention small children, and no word describes it other than “cruel.” I hope they eventually have their day in court and a positive outcome.
    The pathetic excuses of Joe Smith and others like him, who compare this outrage–which according to the State Dept. affected some 700 travelers–to a temporary delay in processing visa applications from one country based on a specific 2011 incident in Kentucky during the Obama administration–is an example of the faulty “apples to oranges” comparisons of the Trump and Clinton foundations, etc. that dominated social media during the campaign. Two wrongs don’t make a right, Mr. Smith, especially when the “wrong” on the left is so minor compared to the “wrong” that happened over the weekend to hundreds of innocent travelers.

  12. Submitted by Kenneth Kjer on 02/05/2017 - 08:48 am.

    Immigrants

    This country can’t even handle its own problems. As long as we have one homeless person, one veteran without a home or needed medical care,one hungry child and 9 percent of the population with out a job we should not bring in one refugee, or give one dollar to another country. It is despicable that we continue to bring in people from other other countries while our own are homeless, children are hungry and our veterans are ignored.

    • Submitted by Dan Landherr on 02/06/2017 - 09:44 am.

      Sad sentiment

      Helping people in dire need is now “desipicable”?

      You set an impossible standard. “Until our country achieves domestic utopia and solves every problem we shouldn’t be allowed to help anyone from another country.” I can only draw the conclusion that you would never help a refugee under any circumstances. Many of these people are fleeing wars our country escalated.

      I hope your passionate mission to help the homeless and the hungry in our country is successful. Let me know what you are doing to help and I might be willing help you pursue that mission more fully.

  13. Submitted by Ginny Martin on 02/05/2017 - 04:03 pm.

    Immigration

    Bringing people in from other countries HELPS our economy grow. We need these people for their skills, to fill jobs, to pay taxes, and to help our country innovate and create businesses. This is what another website says:
    “There is ample evidence that immigrants are creating businesses and revitalizing the U.S. workforce. From 2006 to 2012, more than two-fifths of the start-up tech companies in Silicon Valley had at least one foreign-born founder, according to the Kauffman Foundation. A report by the Partnership for a New American Economy, which advocates for immigrants in the U.S. workforce, found that they accounted for 28 percent of all new small businesses in 2011.

    “Immigrants also hold a third of the internationally valid patents issued to U.S. residents, according to University of California (Davis) economist Giovanni Peri. In a 2012 article published by the Cato Institute, the libertarian (and pro-immigration) think tank, Peri concluded that immigrants boost economic productivity and don’t have a notable impact—either positive or negative—on net job growth for U.S.-born workers. One reason: Immigrants and native-born workers gravitate toward different jobs.”

    We are already safe. These newcomers are not threats–most of our threats come from home-grown terrorists. They are already so thoroughly vetted I can’t imagine in what other ways they could be screened. GET INFORMED!

  14. Submitted by Leilani Maeva on 02/06/2017 - 11:24 pm.

    Absolutely outrageous. I feel ashamed to be part of a country that is trying to exclude a group of people based solely on their beliefs, as if the west had it so much better – we are home to the KKK, the Bloods, Crips, and other mass murdering maniacs. But when it comes to anything remotely to do with terrorism, everyone gets up in arms about it because of the Fox propaganda machine. In reality, Islamic terrorism is a very small percentage of radical Muslims, yet every act of terror is exaggerated to epic proportions making it seem like a massive threat. I recently read about a young boy who is denied access because he holds a dual visa, but was born and lived in Australia and now can’t attend space camp. Who knows what the future will hold from people who work hard for what they get, because they finally have an opportunity to do something with themselves.

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