Minnesota man's wife, kids detained at Dulles airport because now we're afraid of families

This woman and her kids spent most of a day detained at Dulles Airport before being freed to come to Minnesota.

This woman and her kids spent most of a day detained at Dulles Airport before being freed to come to Minnesota.

Donald Trump's order to immediately halt travel into the United States for residents from certain Muslim countries resulted in one Minnesota man facing what was essentially a hostage situation.

Did he want to see his kids? Say yes to that, and he'd be separating the children from their mom. He'd also be saying goodbye to her.

Or he could choose to keep the three of them together -- and send them back to Africa.

It's an impossible choice, further evidence that Trump's thoughtless order did little more than create misery for innocent people.

The harrowing story of the man and his wife (neither of whose identities is public) was told to ABC News by Najib Abi, a family relative who spoke on the wife's behalf as she and her kids waited to leave Dulles Airport just outside Washington, D.C.

The trio had left Kenya on Friday and arrived at Dulles Saturday morning. Before they could board their connecting flight to Minnesota, they were stopped by immigration agents. The kids both possess U.S. passports, Abi explained, and were born in Kenya -- not one of the countries on Trump's travel ban -- but their mom is Somali-born, meaning she's subject to the order.

They were held there for some 18 hours, 8 a.m. Saturday until 2 a.m. Sunday, while federal agents communicated the grim choices to the woman's husband, whom Abi says lives in Willmar.

Says Abi: "They told him that, 'You have to get your children, because they're U.S. citizens, but your wife, we will deport to Africa. We'll send her back to Africa today at 10 a.m.'"

Agents tried to get the mother to sign papers agreeing to those terms, but she refused. She was kept in handcuffs during at least part of her detention, including on trips to the bathroom. They were not fed during this time, and Abi says the kids cried "a lot" while they were held captive.

"They called her husband's phone number," Abi says, "saying, 'We have your family here at the airport. You come and get your kids, otherwise, all of them will be back to Africa.'" 

This invented family tragedy came to an end with Saturday night's ruling from a federal judge in New York, who ordered that those affected by Trump's order who were in transit or had already arrived on American soil would not be subject to the xenophobic plot. (Since then, judges in three other states have found the same.)

The judicial intervention meant this family would be reunited, with a flight to Minnesota booked to take off on Sunday evening. Most of their luggage was missing, but they were undoubtedly relieved to finally be out of the airport, and out the grip of a cold-blooded policy that in this case, didn't make anyone safer. Unless happy families are what keep you up at night.

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