Hundreds of families remain separated 5 years after Trump’s travel ban

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President Biden reversed previous President Trump’s travel ban a 12 months in the past, but a lot of households have nonetheless to reunite. Naser Almuganahi, a U.S. citizen from Yemen, is however trying to get a visa for his spouse.



On his extremely first day in business, President Biden reversed previous President Trump’s vacation ban and opened the U.S. back again up to people from many predominantly Muslim nations around the world. And that afternoon, Naser Almuganahi listened to the news on Television set at residence in New York City.

NASER ALMUGANAHI: I thought anything would be in excess of all the wait around would be over, separation would be in excess of.

CHANG: What Almuganahi wished more than have been the yrs he had been compelled to reside apart from his wife. He is an American citizen from Yemen, but his wife, Om Alkheir Alazzar, has been caught in Yemen because they married 11 decades ago. For 11 yrs, he’s tried out to get a visa for her to stay in the U.S.

ALMUGANAHI: Just on the hold out, hold out, hold out.

CHANG: Which suggests 11 decades of missing all the milestones – the minor ones and the huge types – the birthdays, the wedding ceremony anniversaries.

ALMUGANAHI: I have normally had dreams that a person of them will be celebrated under my roof in the United States.

CHANG: Now, finding a visa for a partner to appear to the U.S. can take a long time under any administration. But Trump’s journey ban has extra many years to Almuganahi’s wait. And even though the ban has been revoked, he is still waiting. We’re heading to explain why, but just before that, I want to inform you a very little more about Almuganahi and Alazzar’s tale. They were being from the exact same village in Yemen.

ALMUGANAHI: I consider I know her by facial area (laughter). She’d usually move by our household. Even now, I am going to be like, do you try to remember me when I was a tiny – you know, when we were being little ones right before this? We could have sworn we saw each other. We understood just about every other. It can be very wonderful.

CHANG: Decades afterwards, they achieved again. Almuganahi was by then the operator of the few bodegas in New York Town, and he traveled back to Yemen to visit his loved ones. That’s when he reconnected with Alazzar, and they got married in 2009. Almuganahi inevitably had to return to New York for operate, and he immediately started the visa application course of action for his wife.

ALMUGANAHI: So I was like, Alright, ideally, you know, it wouldn’t be that extensive. In my head, I’m expecting, like, maybe a year.

CHANG: That year turned into 6 years. The embassy in Yemen shut due to conflict there. The scenario was then transferred to Egypt. And eventually, in 2016, his spouse obtained a visa interview.

ALMUGANAHI: I was so satisfied. I cannot reveal how joyful I was. What can I explain to you? It was like a desire come legitimate.

CHANG: Now, Donald Trump experienced just been elected president at this place. There wasn’t a vacation ban nonetheless, and Almuganahi was wondering, my wife’s visa process is eventually transferring together. He hopped on a airplane to Cairo for his wife’s interview. And at the embassy, the officer questioned his spouse some inquiries and explained to her to elevate her ideal hand.

ALMUGANAHI: He looked at us in both of those our eyes and explained, hey, congratulations. Welcome to the United States.

CHANG: The officer reported they’d have Alazzar’s visa in about two weeks. But a few minutes later, he termed them back to the window and stated he was sorry, but there experienced been an administrative hold off. No other rationale was specified.

Months handed. Almuganahi viewed Trump take business office on January 20, 2017, and just one week later, President Trump issued the vacation ban.


PETER ALEXANDER: Right away, yet another surge of protests in opposition to President Trump’s controversial executive purchase.

CHANG: At to start with, Almuganahi didn’t pretty have an understanding of how this may have an impact on his wife’s situation. He just retained on waiting around for practically a year and a 50 %. And that – that is when an electronic mail arrived from the embassy providing a different interview appointment for his spouse. Hope will come back to him.

They rush to the appointment. The immigration officer at the window fingers Almuganahi a letter, and it informs them that Alazzar’s visa has been turned down for the reason that of Trump’s journey ban.

ALMUGANAHI: I was speechless. I experience like they had been telling us this time, we can not be with each other. And I was like, no, I’m not likely to accept this. I informed them, this is impossible. Why are we currently being handled as a 2nd-class citizen?

CHANG: How did your wife react when she identified out this information?

ALMUGANAHI: She felt heartbroken. She was like, wow. I necessarily mean, you are an American citizen. Your full daily life is around there. Why can’t we be together?

CHANG: Almuganahi and Alazzar keep on being apart nowadays, like tens of hundreds of other people today whose visas have been turned down below the vacation ban. Now, there was some glimmer of hope when President Biden lifted the ban on his very first working day in office environment. A lot of people believed, this is it we can at last be reunited. But that – that hasn’t actually happened. All people folks who experienced been shut out have now joined a huge backlog of other immigration scenarios.

We desired to greater realize the road blocks that households like Almuganahi’s continue to confront. So we achieved out to Rowaida Abdelaziz, who’s a reporter for HuffPost and coated Almuganahi’s circumstance. She’s essentially documented 900 circumstances just in the final yr of individuals who are however struggling the outcomes of the journey ban.

ROWAIDA ABEDELAZIZ: In additional than 100 of people scenarios, folks documented some form of clinical hardship. And about a third of the data, the particular person impacted, more than a person extraordinary hardship mainly because of the ban. So this could have meant household separation and an financial decline, or they were not capable to get a liked a person in time to look for health care remedy. And so these are the illustrations of impacts men and women have been feeling, and there are 1000’s extra.

CHANG: And let us be really very clear – the truth that the travel ban has been lifted less than the Biden administration, that fact does not imply all people who was denied a visa can now routinely get a new one, appropriate? There is certainly a long backlog.

ABDELAZIZ: That’s certainly right. The Condition Office announced that visa candidates who ended up denied owing to the ban could request to be reconsidered without obtaining to resubmit their purposes or spend more fees and that a denial would not negatively impact their new apps. But like you reported, a backlog of virtually half a million has due to the fact piled up, and people today are even now waiting around for a answer.

CHANG: And how has the pandemic, on best of all these aspects, exacerbated the backlog?

ABDELAZIZ: The pandemic has designed all immigration-relevant challenges tenfold. A method that was by now damaged is further than decimated at this point because of problems like absence of employees in U.S. consulates and embassies throughout the entire world. The embassies are having difficulties to not just do the job remotely but also preserve national stability techniques, difficulties like possessing to arrive in individual and providing your fingerprints, medical and health checks and backgrounds. There is also just the fact that the procedure had previously been so backlogged, and so all of the worries that we’re now viewing brought about by COVID-19 are impacted, not just embassies and personnel in this article in the U.S. but actually the full earth.

CHANG: Dozens of immigration organizations have despatched a letter asking the Biden administration to tackle this backlog with much more urgency. A Point out Department official sent us an email acknowledging the backlog and mentioned the administration is operating to speed up visa processing.

In the meantime, Almuganahi has sued the secretary of condition and consular officers in Egypt for, he claims, unlawfully withholding his wife’s visa. He now has three daughters who are 12, 10 and 3. They dwell with their mom in Yemen. And, sure, they’re regularly on the mobile phone. They are on FaceTime quite a few instances a working day. But residing as a scattered household all these many years has been unbearable.

ALMUGANAHI: I can not concentrate. It truly is producing me truly, you know, weak. And I you should not want to give up. I want to get my voice heard. Now that I know that my voice is just one of hundreds of people today like me, this would make me even a lot more sadder mainly because I truly feel also what they sense simply because I’m going through it.

CHANG: So Naser Almuganahi just keeps on ready. He’s gotten terribly made use of to it by now.

(SOUNDBITE OF Songs) Transcript furnished by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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