A 20-year-old Iraqi woman who was temporarily separated from her family in Maine because of President Trump’s immigrant order will attend his first address to the joint session of Congress on Tuesday.
Banah Al-Hanfy, who was reunited with her parents and sisters in Portland in early February, will attend with Maine Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District. Pingree’s office helped bring the young woman from Baghdad to Boston.
“Banah’s father, Labed, helped to keep our service members safe in Iraq by acting as an interpreter, and in doing so he risked his own family’s safety,” Pingree said. “We owe Labed a debt of gratitude and an earnest welcome for his selfless service to our nation. I am appalled that one of President Trump’s first actions resulted in so much stress and fear for Banah and her family.”
Labed Al-Hanfy, 48, and his family hold a special immigrant visa because of his work for the U.S. He and his wife, Soso, and two daughters, Jumana, 19, and Omaima, 13, arrived in New Jersey from Baghdad on Jan. 24. They flew to Portland the next day to stay with family members. Banah, who was a student at the American University in Iraq, was supposed to follow her family within days. Then Trump issued his order Jan. 27 barring immigrants traveling to the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen. Banah was not permitted to board her flight.
Afraid for his daughter, Labed contacted the Portland Press Herald to share her story. After hearing about Banah’s experiences, Pingree’s staff and a group of volunteers found an airline that would allow Banah to come to the United States. After an 18-hour journey, she was reunited with her family Feb. 3. The order has been temporarily halted by the courts, but the president is expected to issue another similar order soon.
Trump is scheduled to deliver his address at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Politico has reported Banah will be seated in the House gallery with other guests who were negatively impacted by Trump’s travel ban.
“There was simply no excuse for what happened to Banah – she had the correct paperwork and legal status,” Pingree said in her written statement. “I hope the President will make clear tomorrow evening that his new immigration orders will not attack people who are coming to our nation legally simply because of their religion or country of origin. I also hope Banah will hear President Trump express gratitude for those who’ve served our military as her father did.”
This story will be updated.