For one U.S. citizen, a seemingly normal Sunday morning turned into a devastating afternoon and evening.
Abed Romman, 29, drove to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport at 11 a.m. in anticipation of his brother’s arrival from Jordan. Hours later, he learned his brother, Yahya, would be sent back to Jordan, denied entry to the United States, despite holding a previously accepted and valid visa. He wouldn’t see his 24-year-old younger brother, who he had last seen three years ago.
His brother, traveling with a Jordanian passport but born in Syria, was to visit the United States for the first time, his flight set to land at 1 p.m.
Abed Romman, a computer engineering student at the Illinois Institute of Technology, waited inside O’Hare’s Terminal 5 with a glow on his face. He held a C++ programming textbook, opening it for quick study sessions every few minutes.
When his brother’s flight landed half an hour early, Romman said he had no worries that his brother would get into the country.
“I don’t expect anything to happen,” Romman said.
But that belief began to waiver the longer it took for his younger brother to walk out of the Terminal 5 international arrivals exit. Abed Romman, who gained his U.S. citizenship last year, decided he would wait to speak to the couple of dozen lawyers stationed at tables across from a McDonald’s right next to the arrivals exit.
He said he was holding out hope his brother would eventually pass through without trouble.
“No worries, he’ll be out,” Abed Romman said.
Another hour passed. He walked over to the attorneys, who took down his information and said they’d do their best to help his brother stay in the United States.
As time ticked by, he kept speaking with lawyers, hoping they could get his brother free. He began to grow more frustrated.
“How is it consistent that a president signs this executive order, then a federal judge stops it?” he asked four hours after his brother’s flight landed, saying he felt the country’s laws were applying inconsistently to people from different countries.
Kalman Resnick, an immigration attorney working to free Romman’s brother, eventually went past security to speak with officials about Yahya’s status.
After a few back-and-forth conversations, it became clear the brother would be sent back to Jordan, which was not on President Donald Trump’s executive order list of countries from which immigrants, travelers and refugees would be banned.
Abed Romman’s brother was to be held at O’Hare overnight before a flight Monday afternoon was scheduled to take him back to the country he had left earlier in the weekend.
After a joyful start to the day, Romman’s happiness turned to devastation as he left O’Hare knowing only a few walls had separated him from seeing his brother for the first time in years.