Ola Malas Usa is a 35-year-old Syrian born journalist and writer, just three years ago she anchored one of the most popular radio programs in Syria.
After joining the revolution only to have her life and the life of her daughter threatened by refusing to help the Assad regime, she fled to the U.S. where her husband, Eiad Charbaji, was granted a visa to travel to the U.S. under the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program. Malas now has a green card as an asylum seeker.
“Almost all of our friends and family were being killed by the Assad regime or fleeing,” Malas told me at a café in Fairfax, Virginia. “We don’t have the option to go back to Syria.”
Malas was considering applying for a U.S. citizenship, that was until this week when President Donald Trump signed an executive order entitled, “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals.” Malas and her family are now concerned about their future in the U.S. and whether they will be forced to leave.
“We don’t have any place to go,” said Malas. “I’m scared to even travel now even if my lawyer says it is okay because I can’t explain to my daughter [now in first grade] why we may not be allowed back into a country that has already accepted us.”
On Saturday night 109 people arrived by plane to various U.S. airports from the seven countries: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, and Libya, with travel restrictions for 90 days under the executive order. Airports were packed with lawyers, translators, and protestors all trying to help the detained be released.
Reince Priebus, White House chief of staff, said Sunday on an NBC morning show that the executive order only affects green card holders from those seven countries. Thus, green card holders currently in the US and their families like Malas are affected by this change in policy.
“How can I trust the man [airport passport control] to know that I have this green card and I have been living here for three years,” said Malas.
According to Council on American-Islamic Relations [CAIR], the executive order is a Muslim Exclusion Order, and is unconstitutional. CAIR moved to file a formal complaint to the United States District Court.
“We have been concerned and worried about what this president is doing,” Nihad Awad, CAIR’s executive director, said in a press conference on Monday, “Dangerously making policies and statements that we believe undermine our national security, our values, and our standing in the world.”
CAIR National Litigation Director Lena F. Masri, Esq addressed the details of the ‘outright ban on Muslims’. “The ban initiates the expulsion of Muslims that are lawfully residing in the US, by creating a religious persecution exception to only non-Muslims.”
The CAIR lawsuit was filed on behalf of 20 plaintiffs all Muslim-Americans residing in the United States.
Meanwhile, Malas is waiting to know for sure whether or not she will be able to travel to see her mother-in-law in Turkey, or if she will have to wait the 90 day period of review before she will be able to travel internationally again.
“I’m really afraid to go anywhere,” said Malas. “I feel bad for American right now because I know America is unique and welcoming to all faces, but this is not the same America I came to three years ago.”