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Syrian Family Turned Away At Philadelphia International Airport

by Cleve Bryan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A Syrian family was denied entry to the U.S. on Saturday morning at Philadelphia International Airport.

Joseph Assali from Allentown says his two uncles, their wives, and 2 children were stopped after arriving on a 7:40am flight from Doha, QA.

Assali says his father was on his way to pick them up when a customs official called and said not to come.

The Assalis were unable to reach their relatives and didn't know what was happening until receiving a call from them while on an airplane returning to Qatar.

The family, who are Syrian Christians, were coming to the U.S. after receiving visas in 2016 to legally immigrate, say relatives.

Assali says his uncles were forced to pay for their family's return flight to Qatar or face being detained indefinitely.

Saturday afternoon, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney issued a statement acknowledging the incident and warning that President Trump's executive order would cause several more immigrants to be turned away from PHL in the days to come.

Mayor Kenney's full statement is as follows:

"I am sickened by reports that federal officials, without knowledge or cooperation of PHL Airport staff, detained and then turned away two Syrian families. By several accounts, these families waited months to obtain the proper documentation so they could come to our country legally. And still, they were sent back to a war-torn nation that has used chemical warfare against its own people. The Trump administration very well may have just given these families a death sentence.

Banning immigrants and refugees is not only unjustifiably cruel, it also puts Americans at home and serving abroad at great risk. By refusing to allow entry to any immigrants from these seven nations, even those who have helped American troops as interpreters and fixers, we are enabling anti-American radicalization and endangering the lives of many.

History has taught us that dark moments like this occur when we allow fear to silence our compassion and better judgement. Our city has welcomed approximately 260 refugees in recent years from these now-banned nations. We must speak out strongly against this executive order so that these new Philadelphians' friends and families can also find safe harbor in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection."

On Twitter, PA Senator Bob Casey said he'd be meeting with Customs and Border Protection:

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