Four-year-old Zeynab Hashemian had not seen her grandmother in more than a year by the time the arrivals door at Logan International Airport opened on Saturday afternoon, and the little girl went hurtling into her “Mamany’s” arms.
Behind her, Zeynab’s parents dropped the sign they had been holding, with its picture of Zeynab and her grandmother and its plea “Let Akram see her Granddaughter again!,” as they rushed after their daughter.
Their reunion — laughing, kissing, crying — almost didn’t happen. Like thousands of other Iranians with American visas, Akram Khajehali found herself suddenly barred from entering the United States after President Donald Trump signed his executive order last week shutting down immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries and banning refugees indefinitately.
She landed at Logan Saturday after a federal judge in Boston issued a temporary restraining order that allowed visa holders through, and a federal judge in Washington halted key parts of the executive order.
“I feel like I have come safe out of a battle,” said Khajehali, her granddaughter’s face still buried in her hair.
The international arrivals terminal at Logan was full Saturday of families waiting for reunions. About 40 Iranian nationals who had been barred from entry throughout the last week made it onto Lufthansa Flight 422, emerging from customs to wild applause from the crowd of loved ones and supporters who had gathered to welcome them home.
Azi Torkamani stood watching the doors with tears in her eyes. She was 38 weeks pregnant, and said she could go into labor at any moment. Still, she was so impatient to see her mother, who had been detained once before trying to come to America, that she had insisted on making the five-hour drive from upstate New York with her husband.
“They are coming! I am so excited,” she said breathlessly.
Most of the Iranians who arrived Saturday were visa holders and had gone through months or years of vetting to get their paperwork before the executive order was issued. One woman, Shahla, who like many loved ones of travelers gave only her first name to protect her family, said her brother had spent 12 years getting his visa so he could come to America, where the rest of their family lived.
The executive order was a complete surprise, she said.
“Nobody was expecting to hear such a thing in the US,” said Shahla, who is an American citizen. “Such a strong constitution.”
But, she said, the executive order had not darkened her view of her country. She once thought Americans were complacent or passive, she said. But seeing the level of resistance to the order had changed her mind.
“I’m proud of American, and the people in America,” she said. “They’re standing for their rights.”
Many of the people who flew in to Boston had done so specifically because of the Boston restraining order, because they were afraid other cities wouldn’t take them. One man had flown from San Diego to meet his mother-in-law when she arrived from Iran, and as soon as she landed, the two of them planned to board a plane straight back.
An American citizen from Iran who gave his name as Babak had driven to Boston from Buffalo to meet his sister-in-law and her husband. When the travel ban first came down, he said, he and his family were devastated. There are roughly 100 of them living in America, he said, going back generations. He felt at first as if he had been separated from his own country.
But like Shahla, when Babak saw the outpouring of protest, he was heartened.
“Then, you feel you’re American,” said Babak, who like many gave only his first name to protect his relatives.
When his sister-in-law and her husband arrived, he rushed to them and hugged them. His brother-in-law took in the cheering crowd, and placed his hand over his heart. “Kheyli mamnoon, kheyli mamnoon,” he said: “Thank you.”
On Saturday evening, volunteer lawyers and translators waited at the international arrivals door, offering their assistance to any travelers and family members waiting for loved ones.
At about 7:30 p.m., two sisters greeted their family at the arrivals exit, smiling with relief. Amene Asgari and her sister Marzieh Asgari, who have Iranian citizenship, had each applied for a one-year visa to work at Harvard — Amene at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Marzieh in the university’s philosophy department.
They had both been living in Scotland and were traveling to the United States to be with their sister, Mahboubeh Asgari-Targhi, and Marzieh’s husband and 2-year-old daughter.
“It was a week of stress because everything was planned, and we were really looking forward to start our job and everything, but we’re very happy now that we’re here,” Amene said.
Amene said the past week had been stressful and uncertain, but she is thankful to have her family reunited and to start her new job.
“I just want to say thank you to all of my friends, all the people in the UK, here in Boston, everyone,” she said. “You helped us to keep us strong and not to give up.”