Two of IRAP’s clients, both resettled to the United States from Iraq, attended President Trump’s first speech to Congress as guests of Members of Congress to represent those affected by the travel ban.
Member of Congress Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) invited Hameed Darweesh, one of the first people detained at the airport mere hours after the executive order was signed. IRAP and several other organizations filed a habeas petition on his behalf, which halted the detention and deportation of dozens of travelers, including Hameed’s.
Hameed had worked as a translator and engineer for the U.S. government for nearly ten years and was granted a Special Immigrant Visa for himself and his family. However, upon arrival at JFK Airport, he and his family were separated and Hameed remained in detention for over 18 hours.
“I started working with the U.S. Army because […] I believe that America and the Americans support freedom; they support human rights,” he said during a press conference following the President’s speech to Congress, which had been organized by Define American. He described in detail what it took to get him released and how he was prevented from contacting his lawyers or his family. But when he was finally able to leave the airport, he was greeted by supporters: “Finally, I found out I’m not wrong. America is a great nation because of its people.”
During his visit, Hameed also connected with Senators Heitkamp (D-ND), Schumer (D-NY), and Gillibrand (D-NY) to talk about how the travel ban affected him and his family. He was encouraged by their support and understanding of his situation.
Hameed is relieved that his family can finally live in safety. But many others are still hoping for resettlement in the United States, or are fearing for family members still abroad.
Former IRAP client Farah Marcolla also attended the speech as the guest of Member of Congress Gerry Connolly (D-VA). Her brother, also affiliated with the U.S. military in Iraq, was initially blocked from entering the country due to the travel ban, but has since arrived with his family.
We would like to thank the Members of Congress and Make the Road NY for their hard work and support.