Tampa doctor’s parents deported when travel ban passes during flight to US

United Airlines Plane Jet
FILE - In this July 8, 2015, file photo, United Airlines planes are parked at their gates as another plane, top, taxis past them at George Bush Intercontinental Airport, in Houston. United Airlines pilots are ratifying a contract extension that includes pay raises and gives the company more certainty about labor costs, the Air Line Pilots Association reported, Friday, Jan. 22, 2016. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – It was supposed to be a time for celebration. Doctor Solmaz Sahebjam’s parents were moving from Iran to the United States.

The couple is in their 70’s. Sahebjam was hoping to help take care of them. Her parents, Askar Sahebjam and Roghayeh Hashemy Soodmand, were on a flight from Dubai to Orlando the same time President Donald Trump’s travel ban was issued.

It was a sleepless night for Sahebjam.

“I didn’t know what was going to happen,” she said.

When her parents landed, it was instant heartbreak. They were being detained. She wasn’t allowed to see them.

“The officer told me, ‘You know about the travel ban?’ I said ‘Yes, but they were on the flight when that happened. They have all legal documentation.’”

Documentation that took four years to get from the U.S. Embassy in Turkey. Her step-mother had a green card. Her father had a visa, and had the proper paperwork to fly and land in the United States, to get his green card.

Hundreds of questions, stacks of paperwork and 10 hours later, her father’s visa was revoked. He was sent home. Her step-mother was allowed to stay, but chose to stay with her husband.

“She came here to live with him. Why would she leave him?”

Sahebjam never got to see her father while they were in the Orlando International Airport. Instead, the officer put the two on speaker phone before her parents boarded their flight back to Iran.

“I just told my dad how sorry I am that he went through this experience. He tried to calm me down and told me everything will be okay,” she said.

Her parents weren’t given a reason why they were deported, even with the proper documentation.

“None of us have ever been involved in any activity that could raise suspicion. We are from Iran and we are Muslims. These are the reasons,” said Sahebjam.

She said she understands and respects the importance of national security, but believes there could have been a better way to go about it.

“This could have happened to your parents, what would you say then? Is this really the right way of doing things? Definitely not. I don’t think so.”

She and her brother are working with attorneys to find a way to get her parents back to the United States, especially while the halt has been issued on the ban.

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