- Associated Press - Monday, January 30, 2017

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - As she waited for her mother to land at Philadelphia International Airport on Saturday, Farzaneh Ahmadi Darani hoped the retired schoolteacher’s journey - begun two days earlier - had started early enough to outrun Donald Trump’s executive order banning Iranians from entering the United States.

Ahmadi Darani, 28, hadn’t seen Fatemeh Sheiki in 18 months. For a year, her mother had been trying to get to her two daughters, both doctoral students on single-entry visas that don’t allow back-and-forth trips between the U.S. and Iran.

Two hours after Sheiki’s flight landed, Ahmadi Darani received a phone call: Her mother would not be allowed entry into the country. She already was making the 15-hour trip back to Tehran. Clutching a bouquet and holding back sobs, she was devastated and confused.

“Minute by minute, I was losing my hope that I’m not going to see my mom,” Ahmadi Darani, a student at the University of Delaware, said tearfully. “They didn’t let me visit her or talk to her for a few minutes. I was imagining her over the wall. I was thinking, she is over there and I couldn’t see her.”

Sheiki was one of at least seven people turned back at the Philadelphia airport Saturday under the executive order issued Friday. Four people were allowed into the country after being detained. It’s unknown how many people were not allowed entry.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a Syrian family also denied entry in Philadelphia. The complaint filed Tuesday on behalf of the Asali family alleges Trump’s executive order violates several constitutional guarantees.

The family, including four adults and two children, also landed on Saturday. They planned to settle in Allentown, where family members who are U.S. citizens had sponsored them and bought a home for them.

The Asalis - who were not refugees and had obtained visas after a 13-year effort - were denied entry and returned to Syria.

“They want to be safe,” said Sarmad Assali, a naturalized citizen who came to the U.S. when she was 13 who was helping her brothers-in-law and their families relocate. “They want to start a new life. Their kids are looking to build a future here.”

Assali told “NBC Nightly News” that she and other family members in Allentown voted for Trump, and she understands he wants to make America safe.

“We’re all on with this,” she said. “I definitely want to be in a safe place. But people need us and we need to be there for them.”

She told the news program she had a question for the new president: “Where is your human side to send somebody to a war zone?”

The executive order, which aims to stop terrorist attacks on the U.S., temporarily suspended immigration for citizens of seven majority Muslim countries. The action has stoked international outrage and expressions of dissent within the U.S. government.

It led to a public showdown between Trump and the acting U.S. attorney general, who was fired late Monday after she challenged the constitutionality of the order.

“If that is the situation we are facing in federal court … we will fight,” said attorney Jonathan Feinberg, one of the lawyers representing the Asalis. “We will ensure that everyone who is subjected to these immoral and intolerant practices on behalf of this administration will have a hearing in federal court.”

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Asali complaint:

http://bit.ly/2knMgBC

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Associated Press writer Michael Rubinkam contributed to this report.

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