Iraqi Family Stuck at Airport, Barred From Flying Into JFK

Fuad Sharef Suleman and his family left everything to come to America.

ByABC News
January 28, 2017, 6:17 PM

— -- When Fuad Sharef Suleman received U.S. immigrant visas for himself and his family, he sold his house and quit his job in Iraq, as did his wife, and his two daughters and one son left school. They left everything all with the expectations of starting a new life in the United States.

But Suleman, who was a non-government organization subcontractor for U.S. Agency for International Development, and his family, were barred from boarding their flight from Cairo International Airport to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York today, following President Trump's executive order suspending refugee admittance and immigration from seven terror-prone countries.

"I've been told by the counter officer that we are not allowed to enter United States as per new executive order," Suleman said, as he and his family were stranded in limbo at the Cairo airport. "Our visas are legal and valid until May 2017. And I've received this visa because I put my life in jeopardy working with American government."

Suleman said he worked for RTI International, an NGO that partners with USAID.

"For the terrorists if you work for the Americans you become a target, they consider you an infidel," he said.

He also said that was why he applied for immigration: He was concerned for his and his family's safety.

It took Suleman more two years to receive legal, valid immigration visas for himself and his family and $5,000 for tickets, all of which "went down the drain," he said. They were travelling on a Special Immigrant Visa for Iraqis for the work he did with the U.S. in Iraq.

"And I'm ruined now. I don't know what to do," Suleman said.

Suleman's family is just one of many stuck in transit a day after Trump issued the executive order barring immigrants and refugees from countries with ties to terror, including Iraq.

Asked about people on their way to the United States, a senior administration official told ABC News that the president's order has a hardship exemption for people "in transit." The official said administrators are still working out how to define "in transit" and "hardship."

And so it’s back to Iraq for Suleman and his family, who plan on staying overnight at the Cairo airport and then flying out tomorrow morning.

"[The] U.S. embassy should have informed me -- informed me and people like me not to travel. Not to take such risk. It's not logic," Suleman said. "Informing airports to deny us flight and not informing us in advance."

Randa Ali and ABC News' Benjamin Siegel contributed to this report.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Fuad Sharef Suleman’s name.

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