U.S. drops opposition, agrees two Chicago-area men can return from Middle East

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UPDATED 4:04 P.m. Wednesday 

U.S. government attorneys on Wednesday agreed to permit the return of two men who had government approval to live in the United States but found themselves barred from reentering last weekend after President Donald J. Trump issued the executive order restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.

In response to two lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago, the U.S. attorney’s office agreed Wednesday morning not to oppose the return of an Iranian man who had lived with his family in the area for years but found himself barred after he went home to care for his mother.

Hours later, attorneys worked out terms for a medical resident at University of Illinois-Chicago to land at O’Hare International Airport on Thursday morning, after he found himself trapped in Abu Dhabi after he traveled there to get married.

Thomas A. Durkin, attorney for medical resident Amer Al Homssi, said government attorneys approached him Wednesday morning to offer a settlement, after U.S. officials crossed out Al Homssi’s visa at the Abu Dhabi airport last weekend, one of the many chaotic incidents that occurred in the hours after Trump’s executive order took effect. 

Al Homssi is a Syrian citizen and permanent legal resident of the United Arab Emirates, where he had traveled.

Durkin said he was not given an explanation why U.S. security officers crossed out Al Homssi’s visa at the airport in Abu Dhabi, but described his client as “jubilant” at the settlement. Assistant U.S. attorney Craig Oswald, who represented the government in both lawsuits, declined to comment. 

Details of Al Homssi’s settlement were still being negotiated Wednesday afternoon to include the State Department, the department that issued Al Homssi his visa. In court, Oswald said Al Homssi will be treated as though he has a waiver and is not subject to the executive order.

The agreement is limited to Al Homssi’s case alone, and has no impact on others who were stopped by the travel ban.

“This was a tremendous victory for the rule of law,” Durkin said. “This is his whole career, this is his life … He’s somebody that these [visa] programs were designed for.”

An image of Amer Al Homssi's visa marked "cancelled" by U.S. security officials in Abu Dhabi. The image was included in Al Homssi's lawsuit seeking re-entry to the United States.

An image of Amer Al Homssi’s visa marked “cancelled” by U.S. security officials in Abu Dhabi. The image was included in Al Homssi’s lawsuit seeking re-entry to the United States.

Al Homssi’s suit states his U.S. visa, which allowed him to be in the country for his medical residency at the UIC and Advocate Christ Medical Center, was canceled by U.S. officers after they searched his phone and belongings. He was told he could not return to the U.S. because of the executive order.

At the federal courthouse in Chicago, dozens of Al Homssi’s fellow medical residents showed up to support his case. Hours earlier, members of Chicago’s Iranian community had packed seats in the courtroom for a separate hearing on behalf of the Iranian man, whose identity was withheld.

As a result of the government’s concession, attorney Taher Kameli agreed to drop his request for emergency relief on behalf of the Iranian man. The lawsuit challenges the legality of the executive order, which bars entry for 90 days on entry into the United States of most residents of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Sudan, including holders of valid visas and lawful U.S. residents who had traveled outside the borders.

Almost immediately after Trump signed the order, chaos ensued, with many people who were living in the United States on student or work visas but who had temporarily left the United States abruptly denied reentry. 

Kameli’s client has a wife and three children, one of whom is pregnant, in the United States, and was seeking reentry to the United States to witness the expected birth of his granddaughter after traveling to Iran to care for his mother.

The suit contends that the executive order violates the constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protection of the law, as well as federal immigration law.