The family of Ethiopian runner and Rio Olympic silver medalist in marathon, Feyisa Lilesa, arrived in the United States today, Feyisa Lilesa told SB Nation.
The family is seeking to resettle in America but had been fearful for weeks to travel due to President Donald Trump’s January executive order on travel. The travel ban developed murky language around refugee and immigrant entrance into the country.
Before boarding their plane to Miami on Tuesday, his family said they “feel good at this point” because of a recent string of court rulings striking down the travel ban.
“I do want to see my family. It has been a while. I do have some concerns,” Feyisa Lilesa said, explaining how he hasn’t been in the loop about every single detail of the orders because of his marathon training. “I don’t want them to give me or my family special treatment. I’m sure they have reasons why they are putting this ban in place. But, I’m hoping nothing happens to them and we are reunited.”
Feyisa Lilesa entered the United States in September on an O-1 visa, usually given to people with special skills, extraordinary achievements or abilities. This was a month after protesting Ethiopia’s human rights violations at the Olympics, raising his arms in an ‘X’ as he crossed the finish line.
Tens of thousands of people in Ethiopia were detained by security forces during 2016, according to the Human Rights Watch. Feyisa Lilesa’s “X” symbol is seen as a sign of solidarity with the Oromo people of the country who have protested the reallocation of their land. Feyisa Lilesa’s Olympic protest turned him into a folk-hero overnight.