In this June 30, 2017 photo, Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin speaks at a news conference about President Donald Donald Trump's travel ban in Honolulu. The legal wrangling over the travel ban continues. Caleb Jones / Associated Press
Skift Take: Wafa Yahia, a Syrian grandmother and plaintiff in Hawaii's lawsuit against the Trump travel ban, finally got an immigrant visa because she could prove a "bonafide relationship" with her Hawaii family. The U.S. government is still trying to overturn a ruling that allowed such visas.
— Dennis Schaal
The Syrian grandmother at the center of Hawaii’s lawsuit challenging President Donald Trump’s travel ban on people from six mostly Muslim countries arrived in Honolulu Saturday night.
Ismail Elshikh, the imam of a Honolulu mosque, said his 52-year-old mother-in-law Wafa Yahia received approval from the U.S. government several weeks ago. She arrived at Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport Saturday evening on a flight from San Francisco in a 28-hour journey that started in Lebanon, he said.
Elshikh is a plaintiff in Hawaii’s challenge to the travel ban. The lawsuit argues that the ban prevented his Syrian mother-in-law from visiting.
The complex legal wrangling over the travel ban is ongoing. A federal appeals court in Seattle is scheduled to hear arguments later this month in the government’s appeal of a judge’s ruling in July that allows grandmothers and other family members of those in the U.S. who may enter the country.
The U.S. Supreme Court previously allowed a scaled-back version of the ban to go into effect before it hears the case in October. The justices exempted visa applicants from the ban if they can prove a “bona fide” relationship with a U.S. citizen or entity.
“The news that Dr. Elshikh’s family is being reunited is one bright moment today when love trumped hate,” Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin said in a statement. “In America, no race should ever be excluded, no religion should ever be hated, and no family ever gets left behind.”
Yahia’s immigrant visa approval would not affect Hawaii’s lawsuit, Chin said: “So long as this discriminatory and illegal executive order is not struck down, the state of Hawaii and its residents are harmed.”
Two of Elshikh’s five children have never met her, he said. She last visited her family in Hawaii in 2005.
“Without the lawsuit, we couldn’t get the visa. Without this challenge, my children would not have been reunited with their grandma,” he said. “I still feel sadness for those who are still affected by the Muslim ban, who are not as lucky as my family.”
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