LOS ANGELES — An Iranian man who was barred from entering the United States under President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration even though he had a valid visa arrived back in Los Angeles Thursday, thanks to a federal judge who ordered his return from the Middle East.
Ali Vayeghan walked into Terminal 2 at LAX around 1:30 p.m., becoming the first person to return to the United States as a result of court action since Trump’s travel ban affecting travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries was enacted last week.
The order banned indefinitely all refugees from Syria entering the United States. The order blocked all refugee admissions for 120 days, and also stopped all refugee and non-refugee entries from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Syria for 90 days.
Vayeghan originally arrived at LAX last Friday, but he never emerged from customs. Anxious family members waited hours, and by Saturday they had partnered with the ACLU and immigration attorney Stacy Tolchin, who obtained court papers needed to secure his release Saturday afternoon.
But it was too late. Vayeghan was put on a plane to Dubai at 3:15 p.m. Saturday. Attorneys continued working on his behalf, and on Sunday afternoon, U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee issued an order instructing federal officials to transport Vayeghan from Dubai and admit him to the U.S. under the terms of his visa. She reasoned that Vayeghan would face “irreparable harm” if deported to Iran.
Vayeghan was greeted by his brother and other relatives at the airport, along with Mayor Eric Garcetti and a swarm of television cameras and reporters.
With his family interpreting for him, Vayeghan thanked his supporters, saying “this is humanity, this is what human rights looks like.”
Before Vayeghan returned, Garcetti blasted Trump’s order as “unconstitutional.”
“This moment we’re about to witness shouldn’t be an extraordinary moment,” he said. “Families are reunited at the airport every single day. But unconstitutional executive actions taken by our president have made this a moment to celebrate.”
He said Los Angeles “has more people who are residents from the countries that were banned by the original executive orders than any other city in America by almost three-fold.”
“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,” he said. “… We don’t shut the door on refugees. We are a city of sanctuary, of refuge. And also of defense of our Constitution.”
Trump and White House officials have repeatedly defended the executive order, calling it a temporary regulation needed to secure the nation’s borders and revamp vetting procedures for travelers from the selected countries to combat terrorism.
“I’m sorry that some folks may have had to await a little while (at airport customs lines), but I think the president would much rather know that he’s not placing a call to someone who was killed because someone was let in this country to commit a terrorist act,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said earlier this week.
Previous related story: Judge’s order blocks part of Trump’s immigration order at LAX