One month ago, Banah Al-Hanfy was stuck in Iraq and unable to board a Turkish Airlines flight to reunite with her family in Maine because of President Trump’s order barring immigrants from seven Muslim-majority nations.

On Tuesday, the 20-year-old student will be sitting in the U.S. Capitol to personally listen to Trump’s first address to a joint session of Congress.

“I came here just to have a good life and a good place to live in,” said Al-Hanfy, who spoke by phone Monday from Washington, D.C. “He needs to let people like me and others in.”

Al-Hanfy will attend the address as a guest of Maine Rep. Chellie Pingree. Pingree’s office helped bring the young woman from Baghdad to Boston after the courts temporarily halted the president’s order. Al-Hanfy will be seated in the House gallery with other guests who were directly affected by Trump’s travel ban, and she hopes their presence shows the president the value of immigrants like her family.

“We’re not a threat,” Al-Hanfy said. “We will help build the country. We will help to be a part of this country. We need to have a chance.”

The White House did not respond to a request for a comment Monday. Trump is expected to issue a new immigration order soon, but it’s not clear when that will happen or whether he will address it in his speech Tuesday.

Al-Hanfy’s family holds a special immigrant visa because her 48-year-old father worked as an Arabic-English interpreter for the U.S. military and as a public policy adviser for the U.S. government. Labed Al-Hanfy, his wife, Soso, and two daughters, Jumana, 19, and Omaima, 13, arrived in New Jersey from Baghdad on Jan. 24. They flew to Portland the next day to stay with family members. Their oldest daughter, who was a student at the American University in Iraq, was supposed to follow her family within days. Then Trump issued his order Jan. 27 barring immigrants traveling to the United States from the seven countries: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen. Banah Al-Hanfy was stranded.

The family had been threatened because of Labed Al-Hanfy’s work for the U.S. government and was afraid for Banah’s safety. Labed Al-Hanfy contacted the Portland Press Herald to share her story. After hearing about the family’s experiences, Pingree’s staff and a group of volunteers found an airline that would allow her to come to the United States.

After an 18-hour journey, Banah Al-Hanfy was reunited with her family Feb. 3.

“It’s a new life to start,” Al-Hanfy said. “Everything has changed since I came here and left my old life in Iraq.”

Al-Hanfy and her family are living with relatives in Portland until they find their own housing. She already has become involved with a group called the Global Shapers Community, an initiative to engage young adults in addressing the world’s problems. Al-Hanfy was studying accounting at the American University in Iraq, and she hopes to eventually resume her studies. She didn’t like the snow at first, but the people she has met warmed her to Maine.

“The people are so, so amazing,” she said.

Pingree’s office has one guest ticket for the president’s address to the joint session. Members of the Portland community who helped bring Al-Hanfy to Maine are paying for the trip to Washington and arranged for her to stay with friends at no cost.

Pingree said she invited Al-Hanfy to put a face to the immigrants affected by Trump’s travel ban.

“Banah’s father, Labed, helped to keep our service members safe in Iraq by acting as an interpreter, and in doing so he risked his own family’s safety,” Pingree said in a written statement. “We owe Labed a debt of gratitude and an earnest welcome for his selfless service to our nation. I am appalled that one of President Trump’s first actions resulted in so much stress and fear for Banah and her family.”

Al-Hanfy flew from Portland to Washington on Monday with the congresswoman and her staff.

“There was simply no excuse for what happened to Banah – she had the correct paperwork and legal status,” Pingree said. “I hope the President will make clear (Tuesday) evening that his new immigration orders will not attack people who are coming to our nation legally simply because of their religion or country of origin. I also hope Banah will hear President Trump express gratitude for those who’ve served our military as her father did.”

Labed Al-Hanfy is proud of his daughter and knows she will be a good example for her peers. The week they were separated by Trump’s order was difficult, but the support they received convinced the family they wanted to stay in Maine.

“For that hard week, it showed us what kind of people that we are going to live among,” Labed Al-Hanfy said.

Adam Burk, the executive director of the Treehouse Institute and founding curator of the Portland Global Shapers Hub, was one of the local residents who helped bring Al-Hanfy to the United States. He also helped arrange her transportation and lodging in Washington.

“I hope the people who have been in support of the unconstitutional Muslim ban have a chance to meet her, have a chance to see what wonderful character she has,” Burk said.

Al-Hanfy’s trip to the nation’s capital will be brief but busy. After hearing Trump address Congress beginning at 9 p.m. Tuesday, Al-Hanfy and Pingree will attend a reception for members of Congress and their guests. Al-Hanfy also will take tours of national landmarks in Washington, which she glimpsed for the first time from the plane Monday.

“It was really amazing seeing it from the air,” she said. “I just want to meet the people of D.C.”

Megan Doyle can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: megan_e_doyle

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