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U.S. Citizen Banned from Re-Entering the States After Trip to Kenya

A Muslim leader visiting Kenya was barred from boarding a flight home to the U.S. on Wednesday, June 14, despite being an American citizen.

Left -Yussuf Awadir Abdi

Yussuf Awadir Abdi, imam of the Madina Masjid Mosque in Salt Lake City, Utah, traveled to Kenya to pick up his wife and children but was blocked by Kenyan officials when he tried to board a return flight at Jomo Kenyatta Int’l Airport, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. Abdi’s wife and children were allowed on the flight back to the States, however, while he was left stranded in the African nation.

“[Qatar Airlines] told him he couldn’t board because the U.S. wouldn’t accept him,” Jim McConkie, an attorney and co-founder of the nonprofit Refugee Justice League of Utah, told the newspaper. McConkie said Abdi has been a U.S. citizen for seven years while his wife and two of his children have visas. The other three kids have passports.

Yussuf Awadir Abdi

“He wanted to go over there to get his family and bring them back to the United States,” McConkie added. “He actually was afraid to go. They are all super nervous.”

Abdi warned that his temporary visa in Kenya was set to expire soon, making his return to the U.S. that much more imperative.

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It’s still unclear why the Muslim imam was prevented from boarding the U.S.-bound flight, as President Donald Trump’s recent travel ban, which aimed to temporarily halt all travel from six Muslim-majority nations, has been blocked by the U.S. courts. Also, Kenya isn’t one of the predominately Muslim countries on Trump’s list.

U.S officials didn’t appear to be part of the decision to bar the religious leader from going home.

Muslim community leader Noor Ul-Hasan said she believed Abdi was barred from boarding the plane because of his religious affiliation. Ul-Hasan said she’d warned the imam against taking the trip for fear that he might face similar persecution there.

“This is what I was afraid of,” she said. “There was absolutely no reason he shouldn’t be able to re-enter” the U.S.

After receiving a “panicked” call from Abdi on Wednesday evening, McConkie said he planned to contact U.S. Senators, the local Embassy and the Department of Homeland Security in an effort to get the father of five back home safely.

“We’re going to start pushing all of the buttons that we can to get him out of that country,” he said.

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