It took around 90 minutes for Hani Amrani’s wife and 3-year-old son to clear U.S. Customs at O’Hare International Airport on Monday.
Or, more accurately, 90 minutes and 10 chaotic days, as the Bridgeport resident and travelers from across the U.S. watched more than a week of protests and courtroom back-and-forth that followed President Donald Trump’s ban on travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries.
Amrani’s wife, Shaikhah Humaisan, and son, Abraham, had been turned away when they tried to board a flight from Qatar on Jan. 28, the day after Trump’s ban was announced.
Monday, thanks to a federal court ruling in Washington state, his family’s ordeal seemed to draw to a close. Around 3 p.m., he lifted his son from his wife’s arms just beyond the doors of the Terminal 5 exit. Amrani’s brother handed the boy an American flag balloon.
“Finally, finally. I’m so happy,” said Amrani, a gas station manager and naturalized U.S. citizen from Yemen. “That’s why I love this country: Nobody above the law.”
“And I just want to tell (Trump) one thing: It’s not a hotel that he owns. It’s the U.S.A.”
Amrani’s wife and child had never been to the U.S., though Amrani had spent nearly two years arranging a visa for his wife. That visa was granted in December, a month before the ban took effect, but Trump’s 60-day ban on immigrants from the Yemen and the other six nations left doubt as to whether she would ever set foot on U.S. soil. As the son of a U.S. citizen, 3-year-old Abraham— who is named for Abraham Lincoln— is an American citizen, Amrani pointed out.
Amrani said he had been afraid that his wife and child could have wound up back in their war-torn home country of Yemen.
“I could not send them back to Yemen. It’s a war zone, and sending a 3-year-old to a war zone…” he trailed off.
“Especially when I did everything they asked. I did everything they asked for, USCIS (U.S. Customs and Immigration Service), National Visa Center, U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi. I did everything they asked for.”
Amrani said he was out an extra $1,700 for the second ticket he purchased for his wife, but still planned to take them on a trip to Universal Studios in Florida.
Volunteer attorneys who had camped out at Terminal 5 since last week said that since the Washington court ruling, which struck down provisions of Trump’s ban on travelers from Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somlia, Libya and Sudan, travel seemed to have returned to normal for international travelers arriving at O’Hare.
Visitors, even those from the seven countries listed in the ban, were moving through Customs in about an hour or 90 minutes, said Saadia Siddique, an immigration lawyer who was with the volunteer attorneys at the airport Monday.
During the days when the ban was in force, passing through customs took four hours or more. At least two travelers filed lawsuits in federal court in Chicago after being blocked from entering the U.S., but both were allowed in last week after the administration “clarified” Trump’s order to make clear that green card-holders were not subject to the ban.
“It looks like it is back to business as usual for now,” Siddique said, who suggested that the faster processing also can be credited to memoranda issued to Customs & Border Patrol agents over the weekend.
Omar Al Janabi, an Iraqi medical student who was waiting for his mother to arrive on the same flight, said the ban was a blow to the image of the United States in Muslim nations. But Al Janabi said he was also impressed by the wave of protests that broke out after the ban was announced, and the swift action by the courts.
“I thank the judges and all the people that protested,” Al Janabi said as he waited for his mother, a physicist and university professor whose first visit to the U.S. was delayed by the ban.
The travel restrictions were “not good for the reputation of the United States,” Al Janabi said. “But the movement that came (after the ban was announced) shows the real spirit of the American people.”