Grayslake man decries ban keeping Syrian son-in-law out of U.S.

  • Grayslake residents Mark and Marie Biersdorf's daughter is married to a Syrian man. They are concerned Trump's ban will prevent the family being reunited in the U.S.

    Grayslake residents Mark and Marie Biersdorf's daughter is married to a Syrian man. They are concerned Trump's ban will prevent the family being reunited in the U.S. Courtesy of Mark Biersdorf

Posted2/3/2017 5:05 AM

President Donald Trump's ban preventing Syrians from entering the U.S. is hitting home for a Grayslake family.

"It's the first time I've had the federal government step between me and my family," Mark Biersdorf said.


Trump halted refugee arrivals for 120 days and Syrian refugees indefinitely and barred entry for people from seven Muslim-majority countries in an executive order Friday.

Biersdorf's family was nearing the end of seven months of paperwork to obtain legal status for his son-in-law, Ismail, to come to America. Ismail, a Syrian Muslim who fled his country for personal safety, is married to Biersdorf's daughter, Samantha, a teacher, and both live in Saudi Arabia.

The two met in Turkey when Samantha, who has a master's degree in Middle Eastern history, was teaching there.

"He's a sweet man, a lovely human and he loves my daughter," said Biersdorf, a business and IT consultant.

Biersdorf called it "extremely un-American to judge people by their religion or their race. It's splitting up families."

Airports across the country, including O'Hare International Airport, experienced a chaotic weekend as confusion erupted over the status of permanent residents with green cards who were detained and questioned.

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Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Tuesday the order was "not, I repeat not, a ban on Muslims. The (DHS) mission is to safeguard the American people, our homeland, our values ... and religious liberty is one of our most fundamental and treasured values.

"It is important to understand that there are terrorists and other bad actors who are seeking to infiltrate our homeland every single day. The seven countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen) ... are those designated by Congress and the Obama administration as requiring additional security when making decisions about who comes into our homeland."

Biersdorf disagreed with the blanket suspension of Syrians.

"Syrians are being horribly mistreated in their own country," he said. "To look at a group of people and say 'You're Muslim -- you can't come,' or 'You were born in Syria and therefore you're evil,' it's not what this country was founded on."

Biersdorf requested Ismail's last name be withheld for fear of reprisals. Ismail, who is trained as an attorney, has supported himself with a number of jobs despite being "a man without a country," Biersdorf said.


"(Ismail's) made his own way, he's not looking for anyone's handout. We're not asking for any kind of exceptions. We just want him to go through this process and be judged by his character, not by his skin or religion."

Biersdorf contacted Democratic U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider of Deerfield, who has promised to help and is urging others to email or call their congressional representatives or senators regarding the restrictions.

Federal policies from taxation to driving regulations to the drinking age have affected Biersdorf personally throughout his life.

But "I've never been told I can't see my son-in-law. It's the most intrusive thing that's ever been done to my family," Biersdorf said. "I'm just a dad who wants to hold his daughter and give his son-in-law a hug."

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