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Jordanian Man Deported During First Days Of Trump's Travel Ban


In the days right after President Trump issued his immigration restrictions, some of the people turned away from the U.S. had visas, and those visas were canceled upon arrival. Their examples are being cited by lawyers challenging the order, including in a hearing tomorrow. Let's hear now from a young man who says that he was held and given little choice but to sign away his visa. NPR's Jane Arraf spoke with him in Amman, Jordan.

JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: Yahya Abu Romman is an engaging 22-year-old. He graduated from university in January. To celebrate, he got a visa to the United States, bought a return ticket and flew to Chicago where he was going to visit his brother and extended family. He never made it past border control. The trouble began as soon as he handed his Jordanian passport, the only one he has, to the border officer. He was born in Syria, although he's been there only once since.

YAHYA ABU ROMMAN: He said, Sir, if you were born in Syria, you should have a Syrian passport. I said, why should I have a Syrian passport? My father's Jordanian. My mother is Jordanian. We all are Jordanian, but it happened to be in Syria when I was born.

ARRAF: Just being born in Syria doesn't make you a citizen there, and he's not. But Abu Romman's problems with the officer went on from there.

ABU ROMMAN: He said, also, your brother Abdul Ela - he is an American citizen. I said yes. He said he was illegal. I said he was, but then he got married, and then they're living their life.

ARRAF: He said the officer seemed to be convinced that like his brothers, he planned to overstay his visa. That's a common reason for U.S. entry being denied. They went through his phone and found emails asking about tuition at flight schools in the U.S. and other countries. It's been a longtime dream of his, but it prompted more questions. After six hours and five separate searches of his luggage...

ABU ROMMAN: He said, OK, Sir, we're going to be cancelling your visa.

ARRAF: We're sitting in the family's home in downtown Amman.

ABU ROMMAN: This is my visa.

ARRAF: He shows me the passport page.

ABU ROMMAN: Says revoked with a red marker and writing, canceled by the CBP.

ARRAF: That's Customs and Border Protection. The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees CBP, said it doesn't comment on cases in court. Abu Romman says he wasn't allowed to call the embassy or a lawyer until he signed papers agreeing to have his visa canceled, a tactic being questioned in U.S. courts.

ABU ROMMAN: He said, Sir, if you refuse to sign the papers, I will ban you from entering the United States for the rest of your life.

ARRAF: They told him he would be deported the next day and put him in a small cell overnight with five other people.

ABU ROMMAN: So I sat there. I introduced myself to my cellmates. Most of them were engineers or something - very educated person.

ARRAF: Abu Romman's father studied in the United States. He always told him America was the land of justice, of opportunity and generosity. Jane Arraf, NPR News, Amman. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jane Arraf covers Egypt, Iraq, and other parts of the Middle East for NPR News.