CHANTILLY, Va. (AP) — Aqel Aziz couldn't stop smiling after his two sons, ages 19 and 21, were finally able to join him in the United States Monday.
"America is for everybody," he said, after greeting his boys, Tareq and Ammar, at Dulles International Airport. The brothers were turned away last week in the chaotic opening days of President Donald Trump's travel ban directed at seven Muslim-majority countries.
The family filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the ban. The lawsuit remains ongoing, but last week the government reached a settlement with the Aziz family, and another Yemeni family on the same flight, the Al Murisis, who were all turned away despite status as lawful permanent residents.
The Aziz brothers and the seven members of the Al Murisi family — all natives of Yemen, one of the seven countries affected by the ban — all arrived safely at Dulles Monday morning.
"This morning a wrong has been made right," the families' lawyer, Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, said at a press conference at the airport after their arrival. "These are nine people who did absolutely nothing wrong."
Sandoval-Moshenberg said the Aziz brothers had waited 18 months and underwent exhaustive security checks to obtain their green card status, which allows them to join their father, a naturalized U.S. citizen living in Flint, Michigan. They had already boarded a flight to America when Trump imposed the executive order Jan. 27.
"They had the bad luck of taking off Friday instead of Thursday," Sandoval-Moshenberg said.
In court, a Justice Department lawyer said the government was willing to accommodate families who were already traveling when the ban was imposed, as well as people with lawful permanent resident status. The Trump administration order amended its Jan. 27 executive order a few days after it was filed to clarify that lawful permanent residents, commonly known as green card holders, were exempt from the ban. But that clarification had come too late for the Aziz and Al Murisi families.
Since then, a federal judge in Washington state issued an order halting the implementation of Trump's executive order. But Sandoval-Moshenberg said the Aziz and Al Murisi families would not have benefited from judge's ruling because their visas had been canceled when they were first turned away.
The Aziz brothers spent several days stranded at the airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia while their situation was resolved, and both families had to spend thousands of dollars on additional air travel that will not be reimbursed. But the Aziz brothers and their father said they still feel welcome in the U.S. despite their ordeal.
"If we are in a different country, they are not going to come back," Aqel Aziz said, referring to the legal help he received and the judicial system's willingness to hear their case.
The two brothers said they hope to go to college.