A Syrian native attempting to visit her sick mother in Valparaiso, Indiana, was not allowed into the country this weekend, her family said.
Sahar Algonaimi, who now teaches in Saudi Arabia, took the week off work to help care for her cancer-stricken mother, according to Algonaimi’s sister, Nour Ulayyet.
Ulayyet, who moved to the U.S. from Syria in 1996, said she went to O’Hare International Airport Saturday morning to pick up Algonaimi, but hours passed with no sign of her.
“I thought she was just going through customs,” Ulayyet said.
Then Ulayyet said she received a call from the customs agent detaining her sister.
“He asked me if I was expecting someone. ... Then he said she was not being allowed into the U.S. because of President Trump’s order,” Ulayyet said. “They wouldn’t even allow her to see my daughters. Then they sent her back home.”
Algonaimi, 58, had visited just last year and still had a U.S. visa good until June 2018.
Before Algonaimi was put on a plane black to Saudi Arabia, her sister said officials had her sign paperwork that she didn't understand and canceled her visa. Ulayyet said she doesn’t know if her sister will be able to return to the United States.
“I do understand that there is an executive order, but does that mean you cancel a visa?” Ulayyet said.
She added that she believes Trump’s executive order, which restricts travel and immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, is the wrong way to combat terrorism.
“I strongly believe that we need to make America safe,” Ulayyet said. “Safety is everybody’s number one priority, but it’s not going to make America safe by doing that. You cannot ban innocent people. Syrian people are being targeted. They are not the criminals. Syrians are the victim. I’m 100 percent for the safety, but this is not going to help.”
Ulayyet said staffers for U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Indiana) and U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelle (D-Indiana) have been in contact with her.
“I wish no one will go through what we went through,” Ulayyet said. “I hope this executive order can be reconsidered again just so people won’t face what we faced. Luckily my mom is doing good and I’m hoping we are going to go see my sister and reunite with her.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Michael Puente covers Northwest Indiana for WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter at @MikePuenteNews.