Four years after the ‘Muslim ban’ migrants view the US with hope – and caution | US immigration

Their journey paperwork have been meticulous, and safety checks confirmed no purple flags. “Your case appears nice,” an apologetic American consular officer informed Hedieh Elkhlasi’s mother and father at the US embassy in Armenia. “However due to the govt order, I simply can’t print a visa for Iranians.”

The rejection was certainly one of tens of hundreds issued by US embassies throughout the world over the 4 years since Donald Trump signed Govt Order 13769, the first of a number of makes an attempt to implement a coverage that turned infamous as the “Muslim ban”. Authorized challenges chipped away at a few of the restrictions, however journey bans on residents from greater than a dozen mostly-Muslim majority international locations survived – till they have been scrapped by President Joe Biden in certainly one of his first acts in workplace.

It was the finish of a merciless regime of insurance policies that did nothing to make Americans safer, in line with nationwide safety specialists. As an alternative, it lower US residents off from their pals and households, upended educations and careers, and tarnished the fame of a rustic that, regardless of its misadventures in the Islamic world, was nonetheless a magnet for formidable and profitable Muslim migrants.

Many are actually getting ready to use for visas once more, hoping Biden’s election will flip the web page on a darkish period of American historical past. Some are nonetheless cautious, questioning if the xenophobia that birthed the Muslim ban will linger lengthy after the order has been scrapped.

Of the estimated 42,000 individuals whose visa functions have been turned down because of the ban, most have been Iranians. Elkhlasi, 30, was born in Tehran however turned an American citizen solely months earlier than Trump was elected. It felt as if the nation to which she had sworn allegiance had turned on her, she says.

“I turned a US citizen to defend the US and to do no matter it took to rely that is as my nation,” she says. “However this nation was not permitting my mother and father to even come and go to me, to see my new home. I used to be heartbroken.”

Three weeks earlier than the first ban got here into place, Shawki Ahmed’s spouse and three youngsters had interviewed for his or her US citizenship functions at the American embassy in Cairo. The second-generation Yemeni American, a member of the NYPD, had been making an attempt to get his household to the nation since the eruption of Yemen’s civil struggle in 2014.

The Trump order threw the course of into chaos, he says. “It took two-and-a-half years to type out: authorized charges, I wrote the embassy, used attorneys – nothing.”

It turned clear the hurdle was not a matter of paperwork or safety checks – it was merely who they have been.

“I’m a police officer, my father got here to this nation in 1959, we’re law-abiding tax-paying residents, we’re not depending on welfare,” Ahmed, 40, says. “However apparently Trump determined these issues don’t matter simply due to our final title – as a result of we’re Muslim.”

In Gaziantep, Syrian nationwide Aya Shayah had extra driving on the US presidential election than most. Her son, Hisham, requires surgical procedure on his ear {that a} specialist in Los Angeles can full six months sooner than docs in Turkey. She had visited her sister in the US a couple of occasions since 2013. Visiting Myrtle Seaside in South Carolina was “like a film”, the Syrian nationwide recollects. “Folks operating, and kites in the sky, and canine strolling, it was so good to see that.”

Aya Shayah applied for a US visa in 2016 so her son Hisham could have ear surgery performed in Los Angeles.
Aya Shayah utilized for a US visa in 2016 so her son Hisham might have ear surgical procedure carried out in Los Angeles. {Photograph}: Courtesy Aya Shayah

She stuffed out an software to resume her visa in 2016, simply earlier than Trump received workplace. “It was a really lengthy software, they actually needed each element of my life from about age 5,” Shayah says. “And after all that, there was a six-month silence, and then they rejected me.”

With Syrians now allowed to go to, and her sister pregnant once more, she is going to attempt to return. “Now Trump is gone, I’m making use of for us once more and I hope we’ll get it, I’m feeling constructive about it,” Shayah says.

Elkhlasi adopted the presidential race from London, the place she moved after two years of lobbying to permit her mother and father to enter the US, efforts that she says left her questioning if she might ever actually be American. “The ban felt very private,” she says. “It bought me mad, I used to be in a melancholy section. I puzzled, ‘Are People all the time going to think about me in another way?’”

It was the response of her colleagues and pals in California to the Muslim ban that gave her religion, she says. “They mentioned they have been sorry, that they didn’t know tips on how to apologise – though it wasn’t their fault. Nevertheless it made me really feel higher. It modified my emotions about America, and that’s the solely purpose I need to give it one other attempt.”

Ahmed’s household was stranded overseas for nearly three years. “It was very pricey emotionally,” he says. “My youngsters have been out of faculty for near a 12 months, it was very exhausting on them; they needed to know what they’d performed fallacious to be lower off from residence and their dad. My mom was sick in Cairo and I couldn’t deliver her to America for remedy.”

In October 2019, he lastly managed to get them to the US, however is aware of that tens of hundreds of others in comparable conditions had no such luck. “Folks in the neighborhood are positively joyful that Trump has gone and the ban has been lifted,” he says. “We really feel like democracy has been restored. That is the America my father got here to: immigrant America is the actual America.”

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