The Bethesda mother whose 5-year-old son was detained for hours at a Virginia airport while traveling home from overseas is calling President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration “counter to everything America stands for.”
The boy, Artiman Jalali, was isolated from his mother and legal representation for more than four hours at Washington Dulles International Airport on Saturday, according to news reports and a press release from U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen. Artiman had been traveling on his birthday with a cousin after a trip abroad to visit relatives and was among those held by federal agents after Trump signed the executive order Friday.
“Never would I have believed that my 5-year-old son, who is an American-born citizen, would be detained by authorities because of where his family comes from,” his mother, Shohreh Rahnama, said in a statement released Wednesday.
Multiple news outlets have reported that Rahnama is from Iran and currently lives in Bethesda.
“I came to this nation for a better life for my family, and we are so proud to be a part of the diverse communities that make up the United States,” she said.
In the statement released by Van Hollen’s office, Rahnama said she contacted the senator as soon as she learned that Trump executed an order temporarily barring travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.
At the time, the boy “was still on the plane with my niece, and I didn’t know what would happen to them when they arrived at the airport,” Rahnama said.
Van Hollen notified U.S. Customs and Border Protection of the young child’s pending arrival and asked federal officials to escort the boy to his mother, but his requests were denied, according to the press release. The federal agents at Dulles also refused to tell Van Hollen if Artiman had been released on Saturday, according to the statement.
News cameras captured the moment when Artiman was finally reunited with his mother, who showered him with kisses as he rested on her shoulder.
In his statement, Van Hollen said he was glad Rahnama stepped forward to share her story.
“[I]t’s so important that President Trump and all Americans see the real-world impact of this unlawful executive order,” the Democratic senator said. “It not only makes our country less safe and tarnishes our longstanding ideals, it also tramples on the rights of U.S. citizens like my 5-year-old constituent, Artiman.”
A number of congressional representatives headed to international airports over the weekend, seeking to determine if their constituents were being denied reentry to the country.
U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Takoma Park) went to Dulles on Sunday after hearing from several concerned relatives and friends of travelers. However, Raskin wasn’t even allowed to speak with customs agents, said Lauren Doney, the congressman’s spokeswoman.
“It’s just been really difficult to get answers and information in general aside from what’s out there publicly,” Doney said.