Washington, DC – From the moment President Trump’s executive order on immigrants and refugees was signed, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen has been working on behalf of Marylanders who were blindsided by this despicable action. One of the more disturbing cases that came into his office was that of 5-year-old Artiman Jalali. His mother, Shohreh Rahnama, reached out to the office because her son was traveling on his birthday with his cousin after visiting family overseas. Artiman is an American-born citizen and his cousin is a lawful permanent resident of the United States.
In this Nov. 8, 2016 file photo, Sen.-elect Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. speaks to supporters on election night, in Silver Spring, Md. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)
Van Hollen’s office immediately reached out to U.S. Customs and Border Protection to give advance notice of the young child’s arrival so they would be prepared to escort Artiman to his mother at Dulles-Washington International Airport. Twice, the office asked that he be escorted to Ms. Rahnama – and twice those requests were refused. Senator Van Hollen also personally called U.S. Customs and Border Protection at Dulles Airport, but they refused to tell him if Artiman had been released. This 5-year-old American boy was held without access to his mother or legal representation for more than 4 hours.
Shohreh Rahnama said, “I reached out to Senator Van Hollen’s office as soon as I heard about President Trump’s order, terrified for my son. He was still on the plane with my niece, and I didn’t know what would happen to them when they arrived at the airport. His office immediately sprang into action, and I’m so thankful for his work. I know I’m just one of many scared families who called the Senator’s office that day, but he did everything in his power to get my son to me safely. 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. 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. And we were lucky – many people were immediately sent back to their countries or barred from getting on their planes in the first place. This executive order is shameful, it has created widespread fear in my community, and it is counter to everything America stands for.”
This unbelievable story has gained so much attention that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked about it at a recent briefing. He defended the detention of Artiman, asserting – without evidence – that children pose a risk to the United States.
Senator Van Hollen said, “I want to thank Ms. Rahnama for being willing to share her story – it’s so important that President Trump and all Americans see the real-world impact of this unlawful executive order. 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. He never should have been treated this way by the United States government – on his birthday, of all days. The ordeal that this family endured never should have happened. Sadly, our President continues to pursue this xenophobic policy despite no evidence that it would make us more safe – and ample evidence that it would embolden our enemies. I’ll keep fighting on behalf of Artiman, his family, and all of those affected by this dangerous and disgraceful policy.”
In addition to fighting on behalf of the families he represents, Senator Van Hollen has also introduced legislation to block this executive order. He has joined with U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) to introduce legislation to withhold any funding to enforce the executive order and declares it illegal based on the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, which banned discrimination against immigrants on the basis of national origin. Van Hollen and U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) have introduced legislation to completely rescind the order. And he supports a bill from U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to state America’s policy to remain a global leader in welcoming refugees and asylum seekers.