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Yemeni immigrants stuck after travel ban are headed to LA

FILE PHOTO: Protesters gathered at Los Angeles International Airport on Sunday at Bradley International Terminal to protest President Trump's executive order temporarily banning migrants from seven Muslim-majority countries.
FILE PHOTO: Protesters gathered at Los Angeles International Airport on Sunday at Bradley International Terminal to protest President Trump's executive order temporarily banning migrants from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Josie Huang/KPCC

A group of Yemeni immigrants who were stuck in Africa following President Donald Trump’s travel ban are on their way to Los Angeles. 

The 20 immigrant travelers with U.S. citizen relatives are set to arrive at Los Angeles International Airport on Wednesday. They and several others were preparing to travel to Los Angeles from the tiny African state of Djibouti when the president's executive order temporarily halted travel from seven largely Muslim countries, Yemen included, and suspended refugee arrivals starting on Jan. 27.

Their passports and immigrant visas were held in the U.S. Embassy in Djibouti, where many Yemenis had fled to escape civil war in their country. Last week, attorneys filed suit on behalf of 28 Yemeni immigrants to have their passports returned and, soon afterward, a federal judge in Los Angeles granted an order that U.S. officials return the passports and allow them to travel.

Attorney Julie Ann Goldberg said by the end of last week, the wheels had begun to turn slowly for her Yemeni clients. U.S. officials responded and begun arranging to return the passports.

Then on Friday, a federal judge in Washington state issued an order that temporarily halted enforcement of Trump's travel ban. That court order sped things up, Goldberg said.

“I think the Washington order definitely helped expedite the people actually flying out of here," she said. Prior to that, she said the only passports and visas U.S. immigration officials were processing were those for plaintiffs who had filed suit individually. 

By Monday, some of Goldberg’s clients had already flown into the U.S. via New York.  The remaining 20 who are bound for Los Angeles will travel with her to LAX, stopping first in Turkey. 

Goldberg said the lawsuit was expanded late last week to add more than 200 others, Yemeni immigrants who were already en route to the U.S. when the travel ban took effect and had to turn back to Djibouti. These immigrants have also been allowed to travel, she said.

The Washington state order is only temporary: the Trump administration has appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is set to hear arguments on the order Tuesday. The court will stream the arguments online.

“I think everybody is nervous," Goldberg said. "They are concerned about the Trump appeal and how that is going to affect them. Are they going to be mid-flight again and have their flights canceled?”

Goldberg says the immigrants won’t feel relieved until they arrive in Los Angeles.