The Tampa branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday challenging the constitutionality of President Trump’s executive order on immigration, while at the same time releasing details about the first Floridians affected by it.
CAIR Chief Executive Director Hasan Shibly said a Syrian couple who traveled to Canada on visas cannot get back to Florida to run their medical practice.
“They went there a week before the executive order was signed to help their mother-in-law who was having surgery,” Shibly said. “Now they find themselves unable to come back and even treat their patients.”
Shibly said the couple did not want to be publicly identified yet because they’re still fighting to re-enter the United States.
“They tried to come back. They got hung up,” he said. “They’re in touch with lawyers right now trying to see what we can do to bring them back home.”
Shibly said the other Florida case also involves a Syrian woman. She reportedly traveled on a green card to see her husband in Syria and her son in Amsterdam and was detained for nearly nine hours in Chicago on Saturday.
“It was the day after Trump signed that executive order,” he said.
The woman’s brother, Dr. Ammar Hemaidan, is an American citizen who practices medicine at a large hospital in Daytona Beach. Hemaidan said his sister, Abir Hemaidan, 46, is an attorney who owns a medical business in Port Orange.
“She was on a flight from Amsterdam to Chicago, and then to Orlando,” he said. “When she landed in O’Hare, basically they said, ‘OK we have to send you for a secondary interview.’”
Hemaidan said his sister went through the 'extreme vetting' process while sitting on a wooden bench at the airport.
“An officer saw her and start questioning her about every single detail in her life," said Hemaidan. "Where she lives, where she grew up, how much money she had on her, what does her husband do, (what do) her sons do, when was the last time she was there (Syria), how often she goes there, and what does she do for a living.”
Hemaidan said the customs agents also asked his sister about her political views on the executive order on immigration.
“He asked her, 'What do you think of what’s going on here?' And she told him, ‘I’m not a politician, I don’t pay attention to politics. I only care about my family and my job,'” Hemaidan said. “And he said, ‘OK, have a seat and we’ll see.’”
Abir told her brother the agents were nice, but seemed confused about how to handle the situation.
“She’s definitely worried about future travel,” said Hemaidan. “They’re worried about the pending (green card) application for her husband and her son who’s in Amsterdam.”
Shibly said CAIR believes the executive order on immigration is unconstitutional because it targets people from Muslim countries who practice the Islamic faith. So far, 20 plaintiffs are named in CAIR’s federal lawsuit.
“About half are green card holders,” he said. “Then half are American Muslim citizens who are troubled by what’s happening.”
That second half of plaintiffs includes Shibly.
According to a press release, CAIR-Florida is asking Muslim community members who believe their rights have been violated to contact local police and CAIR - Florida's Civil Rights Department at 813-514-1414.