Mahamed Sheikhdon Iye rented a larger apartment and strapped booster seats in his car for the arrival in Minneapolis this week of his wife and two daughters. But Friday’s executive order on immigration put the Somalia native’s plans into question: Airline officials told his wife she might not be able to board her flight in Kenya this Saturday.
“I am very, very sad,” Iye said. “I have been waiting for five years.”
The executive order on immigration and refugee resettlement that President Donald Trump signed Friday cast into uncertainty the lives of a cross-section of local residents and would-be Minnesotans — from a University of Minnesota researcher to residents sponsoring family members overseas to refugees slated to fly here in coming days. On Monday, local attorneys and residents were trying to sort through the implications of the order.
Meanwhile, religious leaders, members of the state’s congressional delegation, campus officials and others raised intense concerns about the order. Trump administration officials defended it as necessary to safeguard the nation by giving them time to put in place additional vetting for travelers from countries grappling with terrorism.
Trump’s order paused all refugee resettlement for 120 days and the arrivals of Syrian refugees indefinitely. It also suspended for 90 days travel for nationals of seven countries — Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Sudan and Somalia — though after some initial confusion administration officials clarified Sunday that the ban does not apply to legal permanent U.S. residents.
The Twin Cities is a major national hub for resettlement, where the overwhelming majority of refugees arrive through a family reunification program to join relatives. Dozens of people expected here in coming weeks will have to wait, officials at some of the five local resettlement agencies said.
One trip put on hold was that of a 4-year-old Somali girl, separated from her mother shortly after birth in Uganda and slated to arrive Monday in Minneapolis through Lutheran Social Service.
At the St. Paul-based International Institute of Minnesota, travelers caught in limbo include an Afghani father who won an immigrant visa through his service to the U.S. government and the Somali parents of a 1-year-old who will have to return to the sprawling Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya to await the lifting of the travel ban.
“They’ve given up everything they had in the camp to come, and now they have to go back, which is horrible,” said Jane Graupman, the agency’s executive director.
Caroline Ostrom, head of the local chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said some confusion remains after administration officials initially said green card holders were included in the order but on Sunday specified they would be allowed into the country.
“They drafted this order that keeps evolving and changing,” Ostrom said. “It’s really not clear at all.”
Iye, the Minneapolis father from Somalia who is now a U.S. citizen, rushed to the office of immigration attorney Abdinasir Abdulahi to seek guidance Monday morning. His wife, Saido Ahmed Abdille, was granted an immigrant visa Jan. 18. As the children of a U.S. citizen, his two daughters, one of whom has a disability, are citizens as well.
On Monday afternoon, Abdulahi’s office was packed with Somali clients, some of whom said family members were detained at U.S. airports and others were turned back at airports overseas.
“This is not going to improve our national security,” Abdulahi said. “It will really create enormous delays for families coming into the United States.”
Concerns at Mayo Clinic
Those affected also included professionals living in Minnesota or headed to the state.
The Mayo Clinic said about 20 patients might be affected by the order. In addition, the clinic said roughly 80 physicians and other staff members have ties to the seven countries included in the order, and a number of them have expressed concern about how it will affect them.
The University of Minnesota said a senior researcher traveling in the Middle East for personal reasons was “having trouble re-entering the United States,” but couldn’t provide more details.
Regina Jefferies at the University of Minnesota’s Center for New Americans said more than 100 local attorneys have volunteered to represent travelers who might be stopped or detained at airports en route to Minnesota.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not immediately respond to inquiries about whether any travelers have been detained at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, which is not a common point of entry for flights arriving from Africa and the Middle East.
U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., on Monday complained in a video he posted on Twitter that he could not get information at the airport’s customs office. Later in the afternoon, Walz said his staff was able to confirm that no one had been detained. “This is not the way government is supposed to work,” Walz said. “No matter what your policies are on this, as an elected representative of the people we have oversight of the executive branch.”
Religious leaders unite
In a sweeping public display of unity, a dozen Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders — ranging from evangelical to the St. Paul-Minneapolis archbishop — urged Trump to rescind his order Monday. Speakers such as Imam Asad Zaman, executive director of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, argued the order was a “thinly veiled attempt” to keep Muslims out of the country.
“We have let fear and false facts define our refugee policy,” said Carl Nelson, president of Transform Minnesota, the network of Minnesota’s evangelical churches. “God commands us to love, welcome and seek justice for refugees and other immigrants.”
Meanwhile, U President Eric Kaler issued a statement Sunday that “this is an evolving situation, and we will continue to monitor it closely.” On the university’s Twin Cities campus, there are more than 100 students who are Iranian citizens, none from Sudan and three or fewer from the other five countries affected, according to the fall enrollment data.
In a statement Monday, Macalester College President Brian Rosenberg said recent executive orders threaten “the safety, security and basic human dignity of many people who walk beside us every day.”
Staff writers Jean Hopfensperger, Paul Walsh and Erin Golden contributed to this report.