Selden resident Abdulelah Othman — a green-card-carrying Yemeni citizen visiting his ailing mother in Saudi Arabia — remained there Sunday after President Donald Trump’s executive order banning entry of non-American citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries, his wife said.
“It’s not looking promising,” Barbara Gundrum said in a telephone interview Sunday morning. “The stay that’s in place isn’t going to help us.”
Gundrum said her husband, Abdulelah Othman, 42, hadn’t gotten to the point of purchasing a ticket home before the ban went into effect.
Comments from a top White House official on Sunday clarifying that holders of green cards are not subject to the ban “going forward” did little to ease Gundrum’s concerns.
On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said the ban “doesn’t include green card holders going forward.” But he added that anyone traveling back and forth from the countries in question will be subject to further screening, including U.S. citizens.
When host Chuck Todd asked whether that impacts green card holders, Priebus said “Of course it does. If you’re traveling back and forth, you’re going to be subjected to further screening.”
Priebus’ statement only served to confuse her, Gundrum said.
“What does he mean by ‘going forward?’ ” Gundrum asked. “I’m worried they will not allow him on a plane because he has a Yemen passport.”
Gundrum, 56, said her husband’s visit to Saudi Arabia “was supposed to be for a week then it turned into two weeks. He called me yesterday to tell me he was going to get a ticket, and after what happened I told him that getting on a plane now would probably be a really bad idea.”
Gundrum said Othman had been living legally in the United States after getting his green card a year ago, and left on Jan. 11 to visit his mother, Jamala Mohammed, at her home in Saudi Arabia.
The executive order bars all people hailing from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from entering the United States.
The couple married five years ago after meeting at King Faisal Hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where Gundrum was working as a nurse.
“At first I was annoyed at him for going over there [to Saudi Arabia] and asked, ‘Why did you have to go?’ but he went because he was feeling anxious about his mother and he thought he’d be back in two weeks anyway,” Gundrum said. “We thought because he had his green card he’d be safe — no one knew something like this was going to happen.”
For now, Gundrum said she and her husband are waiting at opposite ends of the world to see what happens next — talking on the phone and texting back and forth many times a day.
“He’s not being told anything there — all he knows is what he hears on the news and most of what he knows I’ve told him from watching CNN,” Gundrum said.
Gundrum said she would keep busy between phone calls and texts with her husband by unpacking boxes stacked in the garage of the couple’s new home.
Gundrum said she might go to Kennedy Airport where more protests over the ban are expected.
“I feel I need to try to be productive today,” Gundrum said. “I’ll probably go to JFK later and add one more body to the defiance.”