SALT LAKE CITY — A Somali refugee who had been stuck in limbo because of President Donald Trump's refugee travel ban arrived in Utah on Friday to meet his 2-year-old daughter for the first time and make a long-awaited reunion with his wife.
Abdisellam Hassen Ahmed was greeted by cheers from refugee supporters at the Salt Lake City International Airport as he hugged and kissed his wife, Nimo Hashi, and picked up their 2-year-old daughter, Taslim.
He is among a wave of refugees around the country making belated arrivals after an appeals court on Thursday refused to reinstate Trump's order that had led to the cancellations of their trips earlier this month. That ruling upheld the same decision by a lower court.
"I'm so happy. I've been waiting more than two years to be with my family," Ahmed said through a translator. "It's been so long, so long. Every month, every second, every day I was counting. I don't have count those days anymore."
He wore a beaming smile as held his daughter. She tilted her head back and stared at him.
"Look, my daughter can't even recognize me," he said. "We have to do a lot of work to get to know her better."
Ahmed, 29, has lived in refugee camps since he was 3 years old.
He met Hashi, 24, in Ethiopia after both fled Somalia amid the civil war. Hashi's refugee case had already been approved when they married, so officials told her to go ahead to the United States where she could apply for her husband to join her.
Hashi has endured a whiplash of emotions in the last month.
She was elated to find out Ahmed was finally set to arrive earlier this month after two years of separation, but that trip was canceled when Trump issued his executive order that temporarily banned refugees and nearly all travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Somalia.
Hashi was devastated after buying a new kitchen table and couches for her Salt Lake City apartment in joyful anticipation of the reunion.
When she heard this week from Catholic Community Services of Utah that her husband's arrival was back on, she was ecstatic but guarded. She said she wouldn't believe it until she saw him in person.
"I can't express how happy I am with all my family here together," Hashi said through a translator.
Ahmed was among nearly 70 refugees scheduled to arrive in Utah that had trips canceled. Nearly all of them are back on track to arrive. A group of 18 people from the Congo are coming next week. The state receives 1,200 refugees a year.
Ahmed was upbeat and profusely appreciative for being allowed to become a refugee in the U.S., but he also issued a plea to Trump on behalf of his friends back in the refugee camp.
"He needs to look at this in a humanitarian way," Ahmed said through a translator. "Refugees have fled their own country, and they don't have anywhere to go back to."