Suburban families try to assess fallout from Supreme Court ruling on travel ban

  • Maria Saffaf, 16, father Marwan and mother Lama, right, reunite at O'Hare International Airport this spring. The Des Plaines family, who fled Syria, are relieved to not have to worry about court challenges to a travel ban.

    Maria Saffaf, 16, father Marwan and mother Lama, right, reunite at O'Hare International Airport this spring. The Des Plaines family, who fled Syria, are relieved to not have to worry about court challenges to a travel ban. Courtesy of Marwan Saffaf

  • Grayslake residents Mark and Marie Biersdorf have a daughter who is married to a Syrian man. They hope the latest court rulings on a travel ban won't prevent the family being reunited in the U.S.

    Grayslake residents Mark and Marie Biersdorf have a daughter who is married to a Syrian man. They hope the latest court rulings on a travel ban won't prevent the family being reunited in the U.S. Daily Herald File Photo

 
 
Updated 6/26/2017 5:19 PM

As the ground shifts for immigrants and refugees after the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on President Donald Trump's travel ban, local families are wondering about the fallout.

Justices on Monday partially upheld presidential orders temporarily blocking people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the country and suspending refugee admissions. The court permitted exceptions for family members, professionals and students who have a "bona fide" relationship with someone in the U.S. The high court will hear the case this fall.

 

Mark Biersdorf of Grayslake read the complex ruling closely to decipher its meaning for his daughter, Samantha, and son-in-law, Ismail, a Syrian Muslim living in Saudi Arabia who want to live in America.

After months of paperwork, Ismail, an attorney who fled Syria for safety reasons, has an interview in July with U.S. immigration officials in Saudi Arabia that could decide the couple's fate.

"Ismail has a huge heart ... and he's seen his share of tragedy. Everything seemed to be set ... until this reared its ugly head," Biersdorf said. "I was thinking, 'Oh, wow.' Then, I realized it's not a ruling -- it's a ruling about a ruling."

Given the couple have been married for 1½ years, "that should fit the territory," Biersdorf said. "They've got a relationship; he's clearly sponsored. So I feel pretty good, but it's still nuanced. We'll see how it goes."

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For Marwan Saffaf, the news intensifies his relief now that his entire family is safe in Des Plaines.

The Saffafs fled violence in Syria after Marwan was kidnapped. He was granted asylum in 2015 and his three boys also obtained visas, but the process of getting his wife and daughter here took until this spring.

"We're fine now," Saffaf said. "But in general, I worry about the Syrian people. They are still there, there is still a revolution, so there's no change. In Syria, everything is a problem."

The Trump administration had sought 90 days to review procedures on vetting and allowing foreign nationals into the U.S. and 120 days to scrutinize refugee admission programs. The order prompted outrage over what's been called a "Muslim ban," and legal challenges and injunctions had frozen the ban. Trump said the decision "allows me to use an important tool for protecting our nation's homeland."

Justices ruled that preventing the government's objectives "would appreciably injure (the United States') interests." But they agreed with lower courts that the ban should not apply to people "with a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States."

"It's a partial victory and a partial defeat," said Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations Chicago. The term "bona fide" "will be subject to interpretation" by authorities and that "throws everything back into chaos," Rehab said, referring to confusion at airports like O'Hare International Airport when the travel ban first emerged in January. He referred people with questions to the organization's legal aid program, tapus.org.

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