''The embassy contacted me and they said 'we are sorry and you are able to travel','' says Fuad Sharef, an Iraqi man who worked for the U.S. in Iraq but was caught up in President Donald Trump's travel ban. Sharef arrived at a New York airport after a judge in Seattle blocked Trump's ban on immigrants. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: Fuad Sharef took one of the first planes out of Iraq with a connection to the United States this past weekend, after a judge in Seattle blocked U.S. President Donald Trump's ban on immigrants from seven mainly Muslim countries. Sharef, who worked for a USAID subcontractor in Iraq, was prevented with his wife and three kids from boarding a U.S.-bound flight last week via Cairo after Trump signed a 90-day travel ban on citizens of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. He and his family departed Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish region in northern Iraq, on a Turkish Airlines flight with a connection to New York via Istanbul. "The embassy contacted me and they said 'we are sorry and you are able to travel'," Sharef reporters who followed him as he left the international arrivals area at JFK airport. "It was OK, it was very easy, everything went very smoothly," he said about his travel to the U.S. Once in the United States, the family will head to Nashville, Tennessee, where the local Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition [TIRRC] is planning to welcome them at the airport. Sharef and his family spent two years obtaining U.S. visas. He said he applied to immigrate to the United States under the Special Immigration Visa program, designed for those who worked for U.S. military and civilian state bodies in Iraq. U.S. Representative Jim Cooper of Tennessee helped clear the hurdles to allow the family to try again, Sharef said. Trump said his executive order, which also barred Syrian refugees indefinitely, was needed to protect the United States from Islamist militants. Religious minorities persecuted by the Islamic State, and other Iraqis fleeing violence, were among those affected. A ruling by a federal judge in Seattle, Washington, on Friday was the first move in what could be months of legal challenges. It also opened a window of opportunity for some would-be travelers. Late on Saturday, a San Francisco-based U.S. appeals court denied the U.S. government's request for an immediate administrative stay on the Seattle judge's decision. The U.S. State Department and Department of Homeland Security said many visitors were expected to start arriving on Sunday, while the government said it expects to begin admitting refugees again on Monday.