An Iranian student deported in the wake of Donald Trump’s travel ban was back in the United States on Sunday, one of thousands of travelers rushing to enter the country after a judge temporarily blocked the ban.
Sara Yarjani was met at the Los Angeles airport by her sister — who flew in from nearby Washington state — and several attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union who fought for her return.
Several people clapped and one woman shouted “welcome to the United States” as the visibly shaken 35-year-old made her way through a throng of reporters and cameramen.
“I am so grateful to all the lawyers and others that helped me… because to me that is America and I am very grateful,” she said tearfully.
Ironically, many of the same customs and border patrol agents who had been involved in her deportation the previous week were on hand Sunday to greet her and rush her through immigration.
“They came and they said ‘We’re just gonna get you through so you get out faster,'” she said. “I knew a lot of them because I was here, detained for 23 hours last time” before being deported.
Yarjani, a graduate student in holistic health at the California Institute for Human Science, near San Diego, had her student visa revoked and was sternly put on a plane back to Vienna last week after Trump’s executive order blocking citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iran, went into effect.
The controversial order, which set off an uproar and caused travel chaos, was temporarily suspended by a federal judge on Friday.
Trump’s administration appealed the judge’s decision over the weekend, prompting visa holders to rush to board US-bound flights while the ban remains blocked.
A fierce legal battle was shaping up between the government and various parties who accuse Trump of overstepping his authority with the travel ban and illegally discriminating against Muslims.
“The legal landscape has been shifting and we are hopeful that the courts will continue to challenge this unconstitutional order,” said Ian Kysel, an ACLU attorney who worked on Yarjani’s case and who was at the airport to greet her Sunday.
“I think this moment has shown the strength of our constitution and our institutions,” he added. “There are so many cases pending across the country and we are going to fight for all of them.”
As for Yarjani, she said although she had been traumatised by her ordeal, she was happy to be back on US soil to finish her studies.
“Whenever I was in Europe, where I have lived for the last 20 years if ever anybody criticised America or Americans I would be the one defending them,” she said. “And from everything I’ve seen in the last week, that’s even more true than ever.”
Pontea Dianati, 30, a fellow student who was at the airport to greet Yarjani and herself an Iranian-American, said she was horrified by the travel ban but hopeful that it would be overturned.
She said she planned to pamper her best friend before they head back to the classroom.
“I want to tell her ‘I knew you’d come back, you’re good people, somebody’s got your back,'” she said