After spending two weeks in limbo under the Trump administration’s travel ban, a Selden man finally returned home Saturday to Long Island.
Abdulelah Othman, 42, a Saudi-born Yemeni citizen with a green card authorizing him to live and work in the United States, had hit wall after wall in his efforts to return after leaving on Jan. 11 to visit his ailing mother in his native country.
Yemen is among the seven predominantly Muslim countries listed on the executive order signed Jan. 27 by President Donald Trump, although Saudi Arabia was excluded from the ban.
Othman had been unable to return home until Saturday, despite holding a green card. Green card holders who were citizens from the seven countries had been initally banned from traveling to the United States as well, but White House officials later said they were exempt from the ban.
“I’m happy. I’m OK. Thank you, God and America and all the people who helped me,” Othman said in Terminal 1 of Kennedy Airport.
Othman arrived from the 13-hour long flight and passed his final check of customs just after noon Saturday while his wife of five years, Barbara Gundrum, waited in the terminal with a heart-shaped box of chocolates. They embraced and kissed in the terminal lobby after what was supposed to be only a couple weeks apart.
“Some people called me and tell me all people with green cards don’t come to United States,” Othman said. “My wife, job and house is here. My country is here in the United States.”
On Thursday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stayed enforcement of Trump’s executive order, which barred visitors from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days, all refugees for 120 days, and Syrian refugees indefinitely.
Othman, who worked as a legal secretary in Saudi Arabia, scheduled his trip last week, after the green card provision was passed along to customs agents and airlines in the United States and Saudi Arabia, but before the latest court ruling.
Gundrum worked with the office of Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) to clear hurdles with customs and ensure her husband’s name was given to airport officials for him to gain entry.
“It’s been unnecessarily stressful,” Gundrum said. “Now it’s a moot point. I feel like we can pick up where we left off. Can we not have a stressful life?”
Othman attempted to buy an airline ticket Jan. 31, but was told the United States wouldn’t allow entry for his passport.
This time he said customs went quickly, though officers still questioned him about his Yemeni passport and where he was coming from.
He met his wife while she was working as a nurse in Saudi Arabia and came to the United States in 2013. He was granted his green card about a year ago. The couple recently bought a house in Selden, and Othman plans to go to school and apply for citizenship.
Gundrum said she doesn’t worry about a revised executive order because she expects clearance for green cards holders. She said she worries for refugees or families visiting immigrants.
“I don’t think anyone in their right mind would include green card holders because they have rights,” Gundrum said. “This is not just me. This is about us as a nation. Aren’t every single one of us immigrants?”