ALLENTOWN, Pa. -- Dr. Ghassan Assali and his wife Sarmad realized their 13-year-long dream on Monday; Ghassan’s two brothers and their families finally arrived in the U.S.
“I’m happy. I’m happy. Like I won the Super bowl like yesterday. I’m very happy,” Ghassan said.
The reunion was supposed to happen last Saturday, but mid-flight to the U.S., visas for the Christian family from Syria , were canceled when President Trump signed the executive order banning residents of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S.
After landing in Philadelphia the six Syrian immigrants were forced to return home.
Seventeen-year-old Mathyo Asali had to wait even longer before joining his relatives.
“We did everything by the rules. Everything we’ve done was right. We did not do anything illegal,” he said.
Ghassan said his family had to leave Syria because “over there, like a war zone. Not safe yet.”
In 2015, their immigration petition finally moved to the active processing stage which involved multiple background checks and several interviews.
The local congressman, Republican Charlie Dent, says the Assalis are not refugees and spent years going through the proper channels. The families have different spellings for their last names, Asali and Assali.
“It was clear to me this proposal was not properly vetted, it was not processed, it was rushed and it wasn’t given the kind of consideration it should have been,” Dent said of the travel ban.
On Monday afternoon, Allentown’s newest residents celebrated their arrival in their own home, purchased and furnished by Dr. Assali and his wife.
Attorneys say there is no way the Asali family would be asked to leave because they are now permanent residents.