Between War and the Ban: A Yemeni-American Story

Between War and the Ban: A Yemeni-American Story

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How the war in Yemen and Donald Trump’s travel ban have left Yemeni-American families stranded between two homes.

 Muslim BanYemenDonald TrumpUnited StatesHuman Rights

Now in its fourth year, the war in Yemen has destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure, leading to widespread disease and famine – and over 22 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

As the conflict worsens, more and more Yemenis are trying to flee for safety and in many cases, desperately trying to reunite with family in the United States.

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But with US President Donald Trump‘s controversial travel ban now in effect, the path to family reunification has been halted – leaving many families in limbo.

“Before the ban, I used to feel America was my home. After the ban, I no longer know; I am lost. I don’t know if Yemen is my home or Djibouti or the US. The place where I can live with my family is my home. We are living and we don’t know what will come,” says Nageeb al-Omari, who applied for visas for his family to join him in the US when the war escalated – and well before Trump became president.

That wasn’t the America that we thought about, that we dreamed to live in and come to … and to settle here, pursue our lives.

Abdo Elfgeeh, a fourth generation Yemeni-American citizen

The US embassy in Yemen has been closed for over three years. Because of this, visa applicants from Yemen have had their applications assigned to embassies in other countries, like Djibouti.

Their only path to the US is a waiver, included in the third travel ban – but even applicants who seem to meet the criteria are being denied – leaving them stuck in a foreign country.

“The moment the stay was lifted, all these people received visa denials with a notice also saying they were denied a waiver,” says Diala Shamas, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights, working with Yemeni-American visa applicants. “There are people who had gone through their interview process and filed all of their documents well before it was ever such a thing as a waiver. They didn’t even make a case for undue hardship. So, on what basis were they being denied?”

“It’s like you’re getting a rejection for something you didn’t even ask for. That seems particularly Kafka-esque; your application for a waiver has been denied and you never even applied for one. These are US citizens and lawful permanent residents who have a right to be reunited with their families,” says Shamas.

Before the war, Yemeni-Americans were able to travel relatively easily between their two home countries.
Abdo Elfgeeh’s family’s roots in the US go back almost a century – but his own children are now banned from coming to the US.

“I’m a fourth generation here … That wasn’t the America that we thought about, that we dreamed to live in and come to … and to settle here, pursue our lives,” says Elfgeeh.

Fault Lines examines how Yemeni-Americans have been caught between war and the ban and their lives put on hold, as they wait for a Supreme Court decision that will ultimately decide their families’ futures.

The US embassy in Yemen has been closed for over three years, forcing Yemeni-Americans to travel to other countries, primarily Djibouti, to apply for visas for their relatives.

Their only path to the US is a waiver, included in the third travel ban – but even applicants who seem to meet the criteria are being denied – leaving them stuck in a foreign country.

“The moment the stay was lifted, all these people received visa denials with a notice also saying they were denied a waiver,” says Diala Shamas, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights, working with Yemeni-American visa applicants. “There are people who had gone through their interview process and filed all of their documents well before it was ever such a thing as a waiver. They didn’t even make a case for undue hardship. So, on what basis were they being denied?”

“It’s like you’re getting a rejection for something you didn’t even ask for. That seems particularly Kafka-esque; your application for a waiver has been denied and you never even applied for one. These are US citizens and lawful permanent residents who have a right to be reunited with their families,” says Shamas.

Before the war, Yemeni-Americans were able to travel relatively easily between their two home countries.
Abdo Elfgeeh’s family’s roots in the US go back almost a century – but his own children are now banned from coming to the US.

“That wasn’t the America that we thought about, that we dreamed to live in and come to … and to settle here, pursue our lives,” says Abdo.

Fault Lines examines how Yemeni-Americans have been caught between war and the ban and their lives put on hold, as they wait for a Supreme Court decision that will ultimately decide their families’ futures.

Source: Al Jazeera

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