An elderly Iranian couple from Henderson was detained at Chicago O’Hare International Airport after President Donald Trump issued an executive order barring immigration from Iran and six other countries Friday evening.
Mohammad Hossein Nasri, 86, and Farania Moghimi, 68, who are green card holders, began their return trip to Las Vegas yesterday after spending several months in Iran for their son’s wedding, according to their daughter-in-law Bita Nasri. The couple departed Imam Khomeini International Airport for a connecting flight in Qatar at about 5:21 p.m. PST on Friday evening, just a couple of hours after Trump issued the executive order.
But Nasri heard nothing from her in-laws when their flight from Qatar touched down in Chicago a little bit before noon PST. She didn’t even know they were being held in Chicago up until early Saturday evening when both she and an ACLU lawyer on the ground in Chicago were able to confirm with Customs and Border Protection agents that the couple was being detained.
“It was five hours of not knowing if they’d landed or where they are,” Nasri said.
A federal judge issued a nationwide stay of Trump’s executive order at about 6 p.m. Saturday evening, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. A spokesman for the ACLU of Illinois said just before 9 p.m. that the Border Protection supervisor confirmed to the organization's lawyers that everyone detained at O'Hare has been released.
The couple has lived in Henderson for five years. Nasri said that her father-in-law helps out at her husband’s medical practice and the couple sustain themselves on their own income.
“They just went for a trip and they were coming back home,” Nasri said. “This is their home.”
She said she expected the worst as soon as she heard about the executive order. Nasri said she tried to call her husbands’ siblings to tell them to not let the couple get on the plane, but it was too late. “This already happened while they were in route,” Nasri said. “It’s not like they made a decision to do this anyways.”
Nasri said she called Customs and Border Protection this evening because she was worried because her in-laws are elderly and her mother-in-law has a heart condition. She said an agent on the phone told her it looked like Moghimi was traveling with somebody and that she had her bag with her.
“I said okay, so they know who she is, they know who I’m talking about,” Nasri said.
Fifteen minutes later her husband also got a call from Border Protection confirming that his parents were being detained but that his mother was fine.
“I feel scared for them because they have been traveling for so long,” Nasri said earlier in the evening. “They’re old and exhausted, and they don’t have any idea on what, why, when, where, how. There’s that underlying fear of what is going on? What’s going to happen?”
An elderly Syrian couple were held for questioning Saturday evening at McCarran Airport after arriving on a 7 p.m. flight from London, according to ACLU of Nevada legal director Amy Rose. She found the couple's son waiting in international arrivals, who told her that his parents were green card holders traveling with American travel documents. The man's sister was not allowed to board the plane in London with her parents, though it was not immediately clear why, Rose said.
Rose said she tried to talk with a Customs and Border Protection agent, and eventually got a police officer from Metro to check on the situation who reported back that the couple was being questioned. She said she also emailed Customs and Border Protection telling them that they had to comply with the order.
The couple were finally released just a little bit before 10:30 p.m., Rose said.
"The woman was in tears when she came out. They were held for several hours back there questioned unnecessarily," Rose said. "It’s incredibly infuriating that this is what we have to go through and fight with people."
Rose said that she is continuing to work with other Las Vegas residents who are trying to return to the United States but are being blocked from boarding their planes.
Photo courtesy of McCarran International Airport under Creative Commons.
1-28-17: Updated to include additional information from the ACLU of Illinois about the couple being released.
1-29-17: Updated to include additional information from the ACLU of Nevada.
1-29:17: The story also has been updated to reflect that the Syrian couple was held for questioning longer than normal but was not officially "detained."