Gov. Wolf, Sen. Casey Join Protesters at Philadelphia Airport

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PHILADELPHIA — Governor Tom Wolf and U.S. Senator Bob Casey arrived at Philadelphia International Airport Saturday night after two Syrian refugee families were detained and then sent back to the Middle East.

Two brothers, their wives, and children left war-torn Syria with 16 suitcases and crossed the border into Lebanon. They were finally on their way to the United States after working for almost 15 years to join their family members stateside.

But after a flight from Beirut to Doha, Qatar, and then to Philadelphia on Saturday, the two families were told to get on a flight back to Doha. It was because President Donald Trump had just signed an executive order denying citizens from seven countries, including Syria, entry into the United States.

Sarmad Assali and her daughter, Sarah, are among the relatives who were waiting to welcome the families to the United States. Sarmad Assali said they received a call from authorities Saturday morning telling them their relatives would not be allowed to enter the country.

The Assalis, US citizens who live in Allentown, Pennsylvania, weren’t able to make contact with their family members until they were already headed back overseas. One of the brothers told Sarmad Assali they were not allowed to make calls or use the Internet while they were held.

According to the Assalis, their family members do not speak English very well and were told by authorities they could either be detained and have their visas taken away, or they could take the first flight back to Doha.

Frightened and facing a language barrier, the six family members chose the second option. Sarmad Assali told CNN she wished she had been able to speak with them, since she would have told them to stay until she could arrive with her attorney.



After hearing about the refugees being detained, protesters gathered at the airport.

U.S. Senator Bob Casey announced on Twitter he would go to the airport Saturday night.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf also headed to the airport,┬ásending the message, “You are welcome here,” to the detained immigrants.

A long immigration journey

The Assalis are Orthodox Christians, one of the most persecuted groups in Syria.

Their relatives, whom Sarmad and Sarah Assali did not want to identify for their protection, began their immigration process in 2003. In late 2015 they were finally approved to enter the United States on an F-4 visa for brothers and sisters of US citizens.

The relatives finalized their paperwork, immigration interviews and medical examinations during a 10-day trip to Jordan in late December last year.

The Assalis have helped bring family members to the United States before. In 2013, they were able to bring in one relative, and last month they were able to bring the brothers’ sister and her daughter.

The brothers waited to join them until after they could pack up their homes in Syria, Sarmad Assali said.

“We bought them a house, we furnished it for them, to help them start a new life,” she told CNN.

But that plan is now on hold until the family can figure out a legal route forward. They have been in touch with their congressman, Republican Charlie Dent, as well as attorneys to figure out a plan.

Mayor ‘sickened’ by situation

Their attorney, Jonathan Grode, has an emergency conference Sunday with other attorneys about the new regulations, Sarmad Assali said. She also noted that a protest is planned Sunday at Philadelphia International Airport in support of their relatives, along with other immigrants who have been turned back.

“It makes me so sad that this great country is doing this to our Christians and to these people and to my family,” Sarmad said.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney released a statement about the two families’ plight.

“I am sickened by reports that federal officials, without knowledge or cooperation of PHL Airport staff, detained and then turned away two Syrian families,” Kenney said in the statement.

“By several accounts, these families waited months to obtain the proper documentation so they could come to our country legally. And still, they were sent back to a war-torn nation that has used chemical warfare against its own people. The Trump administration very well may have just given these families a death sentence.”

Said Sarah Assali, “We’re all feeling a lot of anger, a lot of disappointment in our government. … It’s against our ethics as Americans.”

“On a human level, this is unconscionable to do this to these legal immigrants and their families. William Penn founded Pennsylvania as a safe place for vulnerable people fleeing oppression. This does not represent who we are,” Governor Wolf said.


  • JD

    Newsmax reported that some of the protesters at the Airports were “partially funded by George Soros.” Just sayin’.

  • CeeMe

    Hey Casey and Wolf, take them to YOUR Homes and Neighborhoods and say goodbye to your jobs.
    I and thousands like me are Sick of being ignored by politicians who work for us!

  • Kevin

    Those 2 are whats left of Obama’s puppets , waste of good oxygen is all they are . Useless as politicians !

  • Trumps sticking to his words

    Mr. Wolf and Mr. Casey who are you to tell us what we want? You open your private residences to these people and then maybe we will think of letting them in here with free healthcare and welfare and more rights then the natural born citizens here have!

  • les

    Protest all you want, liberal whiners.
    Conservatives have control of the Federal Government for at least the next 2 years.
    Remember Obama’s first 2 years? A Democrat majority?
    Guess what. It’s payback time.

  • dave

    maybe wolf can add a paid protester fee and stop raising every fee residents pay to the state and start worrying about americans, the people who voted him in to office and will soon vote him out of office

  • jenny from the block

    If this story is on this station and involves these two lying clowns? Then chances are very high that we are not either getting the whole truth or it is flat out lies to push more liberal agendas. I’d bet they’d turn down a plate of pork chops… And any protests somehow have Soros behind them, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he paid to have them flown in and housed.

  • bernard

    Has the media reported what communities in PA where the Governor has placed refugees? There is a public right to know.

  • magicmikexxsm

    Well lookie lookie who crawled out of the wood work…Casey, and Wolf, these 2 nutless wonders …….
    Casey is as usefull to Pa as t :) i :) T :) s…..are to a bull, and wolf isn’t any better….

    I for one have NO! problem with Trumps order..maybe it will stop some future terrorist from getting here…

    • DJB

      Do the math. McVeigh and his accomplice were one. One to many. Not hard to figure out but go ahead and hold on to your talking point if that pacifies you. It’s all about feeling good you know.

  • Erik Latranyi

    The Obama Administration allowed the wife of the San Bernadino terrorist to come to the US despite her pledge to ISIS and ties to radical islam.

    This is the type of protection that you will get from Democrats.

    Gov Wolf and Sen Casey have security and will be safe from the terrorists. It is only the little people that pay the price with their lives.

  • Vinnie

    both are facing re-election. What a crock……… expect more calculated moves by sleepy Bobby to let people know he is actually awake. Sleepy Bobby usually makes himself out to be pro-life in an election year and then flips back to spineless once he’s won another term. Nobody was more in lockstep than Sleepy Bobby Casey and the Obama agenda……….. don’t be fooled by Sleepy Bobby………..

    • CeeMe

      Casey always seemed reasonable to me, but I will NOT be voting for him or Wolf, come re-election time and I urge
      others to do the same. Vote Them Out!

  • WarningFakeNews

    While rushing to the aid of people coming to this country from terrorist hotbeds, the media including this station have exposed themselves for opposing the will of the American people. It’s not just Trump they oppose, it’s us, our safety, our values, our concerns. To them, democrat party unity matters more than anything. The silver lining? It’s working to cement the disdain and distrust we have of them.

      • les

        Amen. I remember Rendells 2nd inauguration when he promised 30% on average property-to reductions because of legalized gambling.
        What a crock that turned out to be.

    • les

      I think of Wolf whenever I watch ’30 Days of Night’.
      If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll understand. If not, watch it.

  • WarningFakeNews

    Wolf and Casey have been identified as “at risk” candidates. It seems rather obvious they don’t understand just how “at risk” they are when they do foolish stuff against the Pennsylvania citizens like this.

  • think positive

    In the meanwhile, children here in the United States are victims of child abuse, sex molestation, murder, starvation. Big drug and heroin problem, and I wonder how many of our innocent American children died tonight because of all this concern about people from other countries!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • DJB

      Because Wolf has done so much to fight the drug infestation in PA (eyeroll) and for his part, slick willy Bob Casey (he is 1/10th the man his Dad was) has complained and moaned about the wall but has done ZERO to fight the smuggling of fetanyl-laced heroin that is killing Americans in droves. He’d rather promote emotional ‘touchy/feeling’ issues that make him look sooooo wonderful. Like showing up in a tux. GIMME a huge break please. These liberals will stop at nothing.

  • Terry jensen

    Go trump… We voted him in and he’s not letting us down, he’s keeping his promise…. We haven’t seen this in a very long time way over due. How did this country get so messed up!!!

  • John

    Senator Casey will not win reelection in Pa. Senator Toomeys reelection was an upset and so was President Trumps win in Pennsylvania. The people of Pennsylvania have spoken especially NEPA . Take a look at luzerne county presidential results 2016.

    • DJB

      While dopey Lackawanna County held on to Hillary Clinton because her father was born here. And they hold on to bumblin’ Joe Biden as if that is some badge of honor. They read Chris Kelly in the Times and believe his leftist malarkey. His drivel is always the same thing—jealousy, disdain for successful people, hatred for Republicans. I always love when I read stuff in the Times like the terms “big shot” and other terms that appeal to people whose life choices put them at a disadvantage but yet believe that people who have succeeded are evil. Comedian Pete Barbutte (from Scranton) put it best: “Scranton is where old elephants go to die” Which begs the question, now that the liberals at PETA have killed RIngling Brothers—will the elephants go to the Electric City to die?? Keep voting Democrat, Lackiewanna—-and wonder why things never improve and your county seat continually teeters on bankruptcy.

      • think positive

        Was right with you until the “elephant” remark. Elephants are beautiful animals that deserve to live freely in their own habitats. They don’t invade our territories and try to claim it for their own. They don’t hate and disrespect us. They don’t deserve to be mistreated. Caring about the treatment of animals has nothing to do with trying to keep our country safe from terrorists and other criminal acts. I’m all for the use of vetting and background checking in order to keep this country safe. But I’m also all for the ethical treatment of animals.

  • Lloyd Schmucatelli

    Hey Wolf, when you say they are welcome here, are you speaking from a personal point of view?

    I know you’re not speaking for any Pennsylvanian I KNOW!!

  • Tom J.

    Casey was awake long enough to actually do something?? I’m glad he’s so concerned with the safety of U.S. citizens. How does a zero like himself get elected??

    • Autumn

      I agree with ya. This country has enough problems with out all these immigrant muslim familes coming over. Its not our fault nor our problem their country is so shitty. Good job trump. Wolf you may want to ask the many of us living in pa what our opinions are before you go running and saying they are welcome.

      • WarningFakeNews

        This is actually to Hocuspocus- yes, I think you’re right. Trump is forcing the left, the democrats in congress and the media to play their hand and they look like utter fools to all other Americans who have serious concerns about importing terror here and about millions voting illegally and stealing their jobs, keeping us from enjoying true living wages.

        They are rallying against him and thus showing how anti-American they are.

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