Four days after a federal judge in Los Angeles issued an order for the return of an Iranian man who was denied entry at LAX and sent to Dubai as a result of President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration, the man is back in Los Angeles.
Ali Khoshbakhti Vayeghan, an Iranian citizen with a valid visa, is the only traveler so far under Trump’s order who has been allowed to return to the U.S. after being sent away, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.
Vayeghan arrived early Thursday afternoon at L.A. International Airport, where he was greeted by family members and a crowd including Mayor Eric Garcetti singing Woodie Guthrie’s "This Land Is Your Land."
“I can’t believe the mayor is here,” Vayeghan said, hugging his niece. “This is what humanity looks like.”
Vayeghan’s brother, Hossein Vayeghan, and his niece, Marjan Vayghan, were among those descending on the airport to welcome him, according to the ACLU. When Vayeghan emerged from a hallway into the Terminal 2 baggage claim area, Hossein and Marjan greeted him with hugs and kisses.
Hossein first came to the airport on Friday, when customs officials refused to provide answers about the whereabouts and well-being of Ali, Hossein said. Later that night he got a call.
“Somebody called my telephone and said sorry, I have bad news for you,” he said. “In my culture, we say ‘bad news for you’ only when somebody is dead.”
But Vayeghan wasn't dead. He was one of an unknown number of foreign travelers detained at LAX starting Friday as a result of the executive order temporarily banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iran, from entering the United States. Officials have not responded to requests to disclose how many people have been held.
A New York judge blocked the ban Saturday, after 52-year-old Vayeghan had already been put on a plane to Dubai after Vayeghan signed a form withdrawing his application to enter the country. In Dubai, he was held in custody awaiting a possible return to Iran.
As the drama unfolded, hundreds of protestors descended on LAX and other airports across the country over the weekend.
On Sunday, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee granted a request from the ACLU and ordered Vayeghan returned to the U.S. But Immigration attorneys told KPCC customs officials refused to accept official service of the order and U.S. Marshals, who customarily serve federal court orders, also refused to deliver it. According to a source, it was because the order did not specifically require it.
This story has been updated.