Iraqi researcher and American husband living in Singapore confused over Trump's order

American sales operations director Randy Olsen and his wife, Iraqi-born National University of Singapore research fellow Zaineb Al-Qazwini.
American sales operations director Randy Olsen and his wife, Iraqi-born National University of Singapore research fellow Zaineb Al-Qazwini.PHOTO: RANDY OLSEN

SINGAPORE - An American sales operations director here and his Iraqi-born wife are among those dealing with uncertainty following a controversial order restricting travel into the United States on Friday.

On Friday (Jan 27) President Donald Trump signed an executive order restricting people from seven Muslim-majority countries - Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen - from entering the United States.

The order sparked protests at several airports in the United States, even as reports of Muslim travellers being detained at airports across the country emerged.

On his Facebook page Randy Olsen, 39, said he had been planning to relocate back to the United States next month (Feb) with his wife and their two-year-old daughter when he read the news about the order on Friday. As of Sunday evening (Jan 29) the post had been shared more than 500 times on the social network.

His wife, Iraqi-born National University of Singapore research fellow Zaineb Al-Qazwini, received her green card - a document that allows permanent residence in the United States - last month (Dec) after a two-year process.

When contacted by The Straits Times Mr Olsen, who has been living and working in Singapore for the past six years, said he tried going to the Embassy of the United States here on Friday (Jan 27) but it was closed.

"It's been frustrating," said Mr Olsen, adding that his e-mails to the embassy has yet to be answered. "There hasn't been any direction for Americans living here."

On its website, the embassy said it will be closed between Jan 27 and 30 in observance of the Chinese New Year holiday.

The former United States ambassador to Singapore, Kirk Wagar, was among 80 envoys who left their post on Jan 20, on inauguration day.

The US embassy in Singapore is now headed by Stephanie Syptak-Ramnath, who is Charge d'Affaires, ad interim, according to the embassy's website.

Dr Al-Qazwini, 33, said her relatives in the United States are in a state of uncertainty following Friday's executive order.

"Most of them are green card holders or waiting for their paperwork. They're in a state of fear. Nobody knows what's going on," she said, adding that she and her husband do not have permanent residency here.


After President Trump issued the order on Friday, a United States judge passed a ruling preventing the removal from the US of people with approved refugee applications, valid visas, and "other individuals... legally authorised to enter the United States", reported BBC.

The Department of Homeland Security responded on Saturday saying it will continue to enforce President Trump's order.

Mr Olsen and Dr Al-Qazwini said they will approach the embassy again when it reopens on Tuesday (Jan 31).

When asked if Singapore Airlines flights from Singapore to the United States were affected by the order, a spokesman said: "We abide by the rules and regulations of the countries we operate to."

The airline declined further comment on the issue.