Lester: After three years apart, Syrian family in Des Plaines to reunite

By Kerry Lester

After a nearly three-year separation, Des Plaines resident Marwan Saffaf has received word that his wife and 15-year-old daughter picked up their passports and visas Monday and will be traveling to the United States in early April. I wrote last month about Saffaf, who was granted political asylum in March 2015, a few months after he came to the U.S. from Syria. He said his family fled to the United Arab Emirates in 2013 after witnessing increasing violence in their hometown of Hama, about 85 miles from Aleppo.

But while his three boys were granted immigrant visas and allowed to travel to the United States last August, Saffaf's wife, Lama, and his daughter, Maria, who is considered an adult for immigration purposes, weren't permitted to enter the country, despite inquiries by lawyer Lauren McClure and by staff from the offices of Democrats U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Springfield and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Evanston.

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Marwan Saffaf's wife, Lama, and their youngest son, Eylas. Lama and 15-year-old daughter Maria were recently granted entry to the U.S. courtesy of Marwan Saffaf

A window

President Donald Trump's immigration orders, which he said was to protect against foreign terrorists, made them fear they would never reunite. But courts have put those orders on hold, giving Lama and Maria a window to enter the country.

McClure said volunteer attorneys will be on hand at O'Hare when Lama and Maria arrive to make sure the family can reunite.

Saffaf says he's praising God and has told the boys some of the good news, but not all.

"I don't want to say something and have them waiting, waiting, waiting. I want to keep it as a surprise," he says, adding, "We can finally be a family again."

<h3 class="leadin">Appeal in COD case

The College of DuPage is appealing a judge's decision not to dismiss former college President Robert Breuder's lawsuit against it. The COD board, a plaintiff along with one former and three current college trustees, is asking that an appellate panel review COD's argument that Breuder's contract was void all along.

The college argued a 2009 lame-duck COD board couldn't legally obligate future boards to a contract extension it approved for Breuder.

Breuder filed the federal lawsuit against the Glen Ellyn school's board of trustees and specifically former Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton and three current board members - Deanne Mazzochi, Frank Napolitano and Charles Bernstein - after he was fired in October 2015. The suit, which seeks more than $2 million in damages, claims he was wrongfully terminated.

<h3 class="leadin">Familiar name

A familiar name has popped up in the case as a magistrate judge, I noticed. Michael T. Mason was also the judge in the bias suit against Elgin Area School District U-46, a case that U-46 settled for $2.4 million in 2014.

<h3 class="leadin">Metadata

Glen Ellyn District 41 officials said they consulted attorneys before releasing email addresses of parents in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, but parent Jim Burket says he's skeptical because of what his own FOI showed. Time stamps show the district created the document containing the emails less than an hour after getting the request from a group supporting a $24 million infrastructure referendum. The document was sent out within several hours of the request. District officials say they supplied the emails of everyone who hadn't specifically opted out but promised to be more judicious in the future.

<h3 class="leadin">Channeling energy

Palatine native John Kamis, whom I came to know in my time working in Springfield, is organizing a volunteer fair where people can sign up to help dozens of groups, some in the suburbs, including the ACLU, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Habitat for Humanity and Access Living. Kamis, who worked for former Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, says the idea is to channel anger and energy in the current political climate toward helping others. It's from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the National Mexican Museum, 1852 W. 19th St., Chicago, and 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted St., Chicago. See

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Gov. Bruce Rauner talks with reporters in March at the Thompson Center in Chicago. Associated Press File Photo

Duct tape?

"We are halfway through our spring session with nothing to show," House Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs said of lawmakers' lack of action on a state budget, or anything else of import.

Gov. Bruce Rauner of Winnetka, also a Republican, put it differently in his first commercial of his 2018 re-election bid. He accuses Springfield politicians of "duct tape solutions" and suggests holding out for "real reforms" like a property tax freeze and term limits will fix Illinois.

State Solutions, an affiliate of the Republican Governors' Assocation, produced the ad. Watch it at

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