A Mission Viejo woman and her 4-year-old son were hours away from being sent back to strife-torn Egypt this past weekend before the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) intervened on their behalf.
Permanent U.S. resident Samaa Kerba, 26, and her son were returning home from Cairo because of the violence when her plane made a scheduled stop in Amsterdam, Holland, Saturday. But U.S. government authorities stopped Kerba, claiming she is on the No-Fly List for reasons that were not divulged.
Kerba immediately contacted her brother, Samy Ali of Palm Springs, and he in turn got ahold of the ACLU of Southern California for help. The regional and national ACLU filed an emergency request to prevent Kerba and her American-born son, Farias Daniel As Salaaf, from being denied entry into the U.S.
Government officials eventually allowed the pair to continue their journey to New York, but Ali worried his sister would be subjected to so much interrogation she would miss the connection to Los Angeles. It's happened to her before.
However, Kerba and Farias landed at LAX Saturday night.
"The plight of Ms. Kerba and her American-born son highlight how horribly broken the No-Fly List system has become," says Ahilan Arulanantham, director of Immigrants' Rights and National Security for the ACLU/SC, in a statement issued this weekend. "Americans fleeing civil unrest should be welcomed here, not barred from returning in violation of the most basic constitutional rights."
Government officials aren't saying why Kerba was on the list, but it likely stems from her deceased husband Daniel Abdullah, who was a U.S. citizen and native of Egypt, reports The Orange County Register.
Kerba became estranged from Abdullah in the summer of 2009 as they vacationed in Egypt, where he left his wife, who was weeks away from giving birth to their daughter, to travel to Somalia to further his religious education. They maintained little contact after that.
But FBI agents reportedly interviewed Kerba on several occasions about her husband, and she has always cooperated, claims the ACLU, adding she informed the bureau about her husband's death this past November.
She missed a connection to Los Angeles from New York two months before, after being interrogated for 10 hours by a certain FBI agent who was reportedly there to greet her at LAX Saturday night. He apparently was not happy about her enlisting the help of the ACLU or drawing media attention to her plight. Kerba claims the agent told her, "You are on several lists now."
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The ACLU filed a lawsuit last year on behalf of more than a dozen people who were placed on the No-Fly List without any opportunity to learn about or refute the basis for their inclusion.
"The result is a vast and growing list of individuals who, on the basis of error or innuendo, have been deemed too dangerous to fly but who are too harmless to arrest," reads the ACLU statement, which ends with this quote from Hector Villagra, the Southern California chapter's incoming executive:
"Surely, every American's worst nightmare is to find themselves attempting to flee a country in chaos only to discover their own government has slammed the door in their face without any explanation."
The slamming is likely to continue for Kerba. She left her young daughter in Egypt due to problems securing a visa.