Longtime U.S. residents, aspiring citizens caught up in ban

Published 9:15 am Tuesday, January 31, 2017

LOS ANGELES — A woman traveling to Indiana to care for her cancer-stricken mother, a family physician who has lived in the U.S. for two decades, and a Minneapolis woman about to become a U.S. citizen were among those caught in the net cast by President Donald Trump when he banned travelers from entering the country from Muslim-majority nations.

Here are their stories:

Sahar Algonaimi, a 58-year-old Syrian woman coming to the U.S. to care for her cancer-stricken mother was put on a plane Saturday and sent back to Saudi Arabia hours after arriving at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

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When her 76-year-old mother became ill, Algonaimi’s sister, Nour Ulayyet, asked her to come to their home in Valparaiso, Indiana, to help take care of her. Their mother underwent a mastectomy Friday.

Algonaimi had visited just last year and still had a U.S. visa good until June 2018.

After texting to say her plane had touched down, she never arrived at the gate. A man identifying himself as an immigration officer eventually called Ulayyet to say her sister was being put aboard a flight back to Saudi Arabia, where she teaches school.

“I asked if I could speak to a supervisor,” Ulayyet said. “He was very nice, very sympathetic, but he said, ‘Literally for me to help I’m going to be breaking the law and I’m not going to break the law.’”

Before Algonaimi left officials had her sign paperwork that she told her sister she didn’t understand. It canceled her visa.

“I really can’t put it in words how much sadness I feel and the sense of injustice we feel,” Ulayyet said Sunday as she choked up.

Dr. Sarwa Aldoori, a family physician from Bakersfield, California, was returning home Saturday from an eight-day religious pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia when she was startled to be pulled aside from the rest of her group.