On January 27, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order that suspended all U.S. resettlement of Syrian refugees and banned all nationals from Syria and six other majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States, among other provisions.
On January 28, 2017, the Asali families – four adults and two children – landed at the Philadelphia airport on a flight from Qatar after receiving immigrant visas authorizing them to move to the United States. They planned to settle in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where U.S.– based family had purchased a home for them.
But upon arrival, they were denied entry pursuant to the executive order. U.S. Customs and Border Protection cancelled the Asalis’ visas and ordered them to return to Syria. Less than three hours after they had landed, the Asalis were forced to board a plane back to Qatar, and eventually returned to Syria.
On January 31, 2017, a team of lawyers including the ACLU of Pennsylvania filed a complaint on the Asalis’ behalf alleging that the executive order embodied religious and ethnic discrimination and violated several constitutional and federal statutory guarantees. The plaintiffs sought a temporary restraining order directing the government to immediately reinstate the Asalis’ cancelled visas, to arrange transportation for them back to the United States at government expense, and to admit them into the country.
On February 5, 2017, the Asalis were granted approval to return to the United States after intervention and negotiations by Congressman Charlie Dent (R-PA).