Update: Ph.D. student stranded in airport with baby following executive order deported back to Libya, still barred from U.S.

Julia Rentsch

Update: The subject of this story was able to re-enter the U.S. on Feb. 4 following a temporary suspension of the travel ban. Read the latest here.

Update: Hanan Isweiri is no longer detained in Jordan. A phone interview with her husband, Ahmed Buhalfaia, has confirmed she has been able to return to her family in Libya. Buhalfaia has been working with the CSU Office of International Programs to help his wife return to Fort Collins and her family.

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A friend of the family has set up a GoFundMe account to support Isweiri’s children and the potential costs of bringing her back to the U.S. 

Correction: In a previous version of this article we incorrectly stated Ahmed Buhalfaia’s last name. We regret the error.

— Original story —

One of three Colorado State University students unable to return to the U.S. following an executive order signed by President Donald Trump last Friday has been trapped in an airport in Amman, Jordan since Saturday morning. 

Hanan Isweiri is a Ph.D. student in CSU’s Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture and works as a Community Coordinator for Apartment Life. She has lived in the U.S. since 2010 with her husband and is the mother of four children, ages 11, 10, 8, and 13 months.

Isweiri flew home to Libya in December after hearing that her father died. Her mother, too, was sick, and after her father’s death she feared for her mother’s health, she said. She took her 13-month-old baby with her, who hadn’t yet been seen by the family. 

The executive order signed by President Trump bans citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries — Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Libya — from entering into the U.S. for 90 days.

After the ban was announced Friday night, Isweiri worried about her flight home to the U.S., which was scheduled for Saturday. 

“I was kind of worried, but I did not hear (the travel ban) immediately applied, and, I mean, the airline did not send me anything. I had to contact them,” she said. “And they were like, ‘I’m sure you’re okay since you have a valid visa and a valid reason to return to the USA.'” 

Isweiri was able to travel from Libya to Jordan, where she had a layover before her next planned flight to Frankfurt; from there she was to go on to the U.S. 

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But Isweiri’s flight to Frankfurt via Lufthansa was cancelled following the ban; she was stuck in Jordan. 

Isweiri tried to book another flight to Frankfurt on the Royal Jordanian Airlines, but to no avail.

“I tried with the Jordan Airlines, and they said they didn’t have this order yet, so I booked a ticket and I was about to pay when they changed their minds and they said they have the same order,” Isweiri said. “I am not allowed even to go out, I am just in the airport.”

Isweiri has been trying to both fight her case and take care of her baby during her stay at the airport. 

“The first night I just spent it on the bench because I was hoping to fly the second morning on the Jordan airline, but they changed their mind, (and) I cried, and just (needed) a place to at least sleep” Isweiri said. “So I went to the hotel in the airport. It’s very expensive and it’s (priced) by hours. So I took like 24 hours for my baby because he was acting really nervous, starting to be tired from holding and being in the baby cart.”

Despite the setbacks, Isweiri said that she has received considerable help from her contacts at CSU from the first day.

“International Programs, my department … my academic adviser and my work supervisor, they all reached out to me and they were with me step by step, calling me, texting me, emailing me, trying to help as much as they can,” she said.

Isweiri said that she may need a lawyer once she is able to fly to the U.S. but is not sure when that will be possible.

“I am not even sure, if I fly there, they will allow me to enter, but I just want to fly from here,” she said. 

In his campus-wide email to students Sunday, CSU President Tony Frank promised that the University was monitoring the situations of students abroad closely.

“We are connecting them with legal services as needed, and I’ll add that Senators Gardner and Bennet and Representative Polis have been actively engaged on behalf of our students and are tremendously supportive in terms of the assistance they are offering,” Frank wrote in the email.

Isweiri said she has a very positive view of her experience at CSU and life in Fort Collins.

“I really love it,” she said. “Fort Collins and CSU is my favorite place, I feel very, very safe and welcomed since the first day in Colorado.”

In 2011 protests in Libya escalated into civil war between the forces of Muammar Gaddafi and those seeking to oust his government from power. One of Isweiri’s brothers was killed in the conflict.

“When the war started in my country, I lost a brother,” Isweiri said. “I had a lot of difficulty but I always had support from my friends here … CSU was always supportive for Libyans during their difficult time.”

Are you, or is someone you know, affected by the travel ban? Tell the Collegian your story by emailing news@collegian.com.

Collegian Editor-in-Chief Julia Rentsch can be reached directly at editor@collegian.com or on Twitter at @julia_rentsch.