Life in Limbo: Diary of a Syrian Mom Affected by Travel Ban

Bestgreenscreen/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — ABC News will be chronicling the experience of Alaa Ali Alali, a 48-year-old single mother who fled war-torn Aleppo in 2012 with her 14-year-old son, as she tries to navigate her way
to the U.S. as a Syrian refugee following President Donald Trump’s executive order, which banned Syrian refugees indefinitely from entering the country. She had been cleared to come to the U.S. in
February, but the executive order threw that into limbo. She will share her journey through videos, text messages and phone calls.

Alaa Ali Alali had been vetted for nearly two years before her asylum application was approved.

Feb. 15

Once again, Alali’s travel to the U.S. has been postponed. She said the International Organization for Migration had told her to prepare for travel tomorrow, but today the organization informed her
that she will not be traveling as planned. IOM declined to comment. A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department told ABC News the department was not able to provide information on specific
resettlement cases to the media.

“The travel was postponed again until the 21st of this month,” she told ABC News in Arabic over the phone. “Today I spent four to five hours waiting in the street outside the U.S. Embassy while
case workers from the International Organization for Migration were inside trying to fix the problem. The U.S. has a list of names of who is able to travel tomorrow and apparently my name is not on
it. My son Mohammad and I had been so happy because we were finally going to the U.S. We had made a deal that we were going to the Pyramids today. It was going to be our last memory from Egypt. Our
bags are ready. I have prepared everything and weighed the bags. Now I’m crying and my son is upset. I don’t know if I should unpack or not. My family in the U.S. had been so happy and was
expecting us. My son was so happy. He’s very attached to his granddad who’s in the U.S. He’s like a father to him.”

Alali said she had paid around $300 to change her son’s plane ticket after their scheduled trip on Feb. 9 was cancelled. She has to purchase his plane ticket herself because he’s not part of the
refugee program like his mother due to his dual Canadian and Syrian citizenship.

“I don’t know if I should still send him to the U.S. tomorrow or not,” Alali said. “Currently I can’t send him to school here. I took him out of school because I thought we were leaving and I have
to pay to send him back to school and I don’t know what to do. If I could be sure that he’d be able to enter the country with no problems I’d do it. But I’m afraid they’ll stop him in the airport
and ask him why he’s traveling alone and how old he is. I spoke to the travel agency and they told me that the fee for changing the ticket would probably be higher this time, but that they’ll get
back to me. My son really wants to go, but at the same time he wants to be with me. He’s afraid like me. I’m afraid they’ll keep postponing the travel until the American president will be able to
make a new decision that will stop me from traveling.”

Feb. 8

Alali was supposed to board a plane headed to the U.S. on Feb. 9. But today she received a call from the International Organization for Migration, informing her that she will not be traveling after
all.

“They told me that they would call me back with a new date. They postponed my travel. Others will be traveling tomorrow, but not me. They told me that they don’t know why my travel was postponed
and that they will call me back soon to set a new date,” she told ABC News in Arabic.

Alali’s son was born in Canada and is a dual Syrian and Canadian citizen, meaning that he is not part of the refugee program like his mother. After Alali learned that she was flying tomorrow, she
booked a ticket for her son on the same flight. Now, she says she doesn’t know if she should let him travel alone.

“I begged them [to let me travel tomorrow] because I already booked a ticket for my son. I don’t know what to do now. I’m very distressed. I’m afraid that I won’t be able to travel at all. My son
is very upset. He doesn’t want to leave me.”

Earlier in the day, before her travel was cancelled, Alali had a meeting with the IOM. She said she was happy but worried — the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals still hadn’t made a decision on
whether President Trump’s travel ban should be reinstated.

“We have to be at the airport tomorrow at 6 am. And God willing we will depart at 10:30,” she said following the meeting.

“We are going to New York tomorrow. I’m going to buy a suitcase now and then go home. I’ve already weighed my bags so I just need to move things to the new bag and then I’ll be ready. I’m very
happy, but I’m also a little afraid. The court still hasn’t made a decision. I’m scared that something I haven’t expected will happen, that the ban will come back into effect. But I’m very happy

because I’m going to see my brothers that I haven’t seen for about 10 years and my dad who I haven’t seen for almost five years. My son is also happy that he might get a better life. My dad is
happy because he needs me.”

Feb. 6

The decision by a federal judge to place a temporary restraining order on Trump’s ban has failed to allay Alali’s fears.

“As a single mother without any kind of support, loneliness and fear accompanies me for now, but I still trust the people and I hope things will change because justice and mercy are what makes us
humans. I think this cruel decision will face refusal by the court. But the process will take a long time. Now, I’m waiting for a call from IOM [The International Organization for Migration] to set
a new date for departure. They promised to do the best they could before ‘The Ban’ starts once again. So I’m in terror of what’s next to come.”

UPDATE:

Later in the day, Alali sent ABC News the following message in Arabic:

“The IOM just called me and told me that they booked me a flight on Feb. 9. So that’s in three days. They told me that if anything happens or if they cancel the flight, they will let me know.

UPDATE 2:

The International Rescue Committee was assigned Alali’s case in January and is involved in the planning of her arrival in the U.S. Karen Ferguson, IRC executive director in northern California,
told ABC News on Wednesday:

“This is a perfect example of how timing will determine the fate of the unification of this family. It would never have occurred to me that all of a sudden this family’s case would be interrupted.
Isn’t she the exact type of person we would want here? She’s a dentist, she’s a survivor. She ran her own clinic in Syria. She fled terrorism. She has family here who’s willing to support her. And
this is the person we’re going to bar?”

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