For some Muslims, hope, uncertainty after removal of travel ban


Mohammed Al Zabidi celebrated in 2017 when he learned that he had been selected in the US Green Card Lottery, which randomly selected people from a large pool of applicants. It was Yemen’s chance to escape its war-torn homeland and pursue its dreams in the United States.

“I won! I won!” Al Zabidi rejoiced. He borrowed money to finance his trip, bought clothes for his new life in America and packed souvenirs for friends there. With no US embassy in Yemen, he made a grueling visit to Djibouti for his visa interview.

But there, when she was initially approved, her luck ran: “Without a canceled payment,” the bold, black, all-caps stamp on unused visas in her passport with the Trump administration has been denied to many Muslim- In place, with travel restrictions with majority nations.

“My family raised their hopes on me. … my mother cried; It made me sad the most, ”he said.

Citizens in the covered countries were relieved by President Joe Biden’s measures to repeal the ban on inauguration day. But there are tales of broken dreams in the midst of celebrations, families separated, savings used, and education from birth to graduation. And for some, there are concerns about whether their opportunities may be gone forever.

The lottery system requires winners to vet and have their visas on hand for 30 years of the year they choose, or they lose. So Al Zabidi wondered whether he would ever start working there to the states and repay what he had borrowed.

Can we get my visa back? Can we be compensated? ” They said. “We don’t know.”

Many of those whose lives flourished must now ask questions about backlogs, fees paid and travel restrictions due to the epidemic. Americans who advocate immigration and the rights of Muslims in the United States advocate Biden’s decision, but also point to further work on track and to withdraw the ban’s legacy.

Mariam Baur, legal director of Muslim advocates, said, “The ban furthers the narrative that Muslims, Africans, and other communities of color are not in America, that we are a dangerous threat.” “Ending the ban was the first step towards changing that narrative. Next, the Biden administration should remove other administrative immigration barriers that are preventing families from reunification. “

According to US State Department data, more than 40,000 visas were canceled due to the ban. They included not only lottery winners, but families, who were trying to travel for business or personal reasons to people traveling and students accepted into American universities.

Biden has commissioned a report to address a range of issues, including a resolution ensuring reconsideration of immigrant visa applications denied because of the ban. The proposal will consider whether to reopen rejected applications. He also called for a plan to expedite consideration of those applications.

Many people affected by the ban are also being shut down by an April order to stop issuing green cards to protect the US labor market amid the epidemic by former President Donald Trump.

California lawyer Rafael Urana said that Biden has not indicated whether he would take it up and that ending the travel ban would mean little.

“Most of my clients have no reason to celebrate because they are still stuck,” Yurena said.

They also include Mania Darbani, whose 71-year-old mother in Iran was denied a tourist visa to visit Los Angeles. In recent days she has investigated and was told that she still cannot go, due to the epidemic.

The 36-year-old courtier said, “I am so tired of this situation.” I want to ask President Biden to remove all travel restrictions and help us. Please, please, help us. “

Maner Waheed, senior legislator and advocacy advocate for the American Civil Liberties Association, said many people are concerned about the long wait for visas.

Wahid said, “Embassies are closed all over the world because of COVID, so there is a piece of it.” “But also because we looked at many parts of our immigration system and have actually been expelled by the Trump administration, so it’s about building those systems.”

What is known as the “Muslim ban” or “travel ban” was first implemented in 2017, then withdrawn amid legal challenges, until a version was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2018 Was placed. It affected various categories of travelers and migrants from Iran. , Somalia, Yemen, Syria and Libya, North Koreans and some Venezuelan government officials and their families. In 2020, immigration restrictions affecting several other nations were added.

Trump and others defended it on national security grounds, arguing that it would make America safer from terrorism. Proponents of the policy rejected the argument that it was rooted in anti-Muslim prejudice, stating that it was intended to protect the country.

In reversing the ban, the new administration says it intends to strengthen information-sharing with other countries and implement a rigid, personalized vetting system for visa applicants.

It is unclear whether it will be too late for Anwar Alsaidi from Yemen, who hoped to provide a better future for his two children. He rejoiced in 2017 when he was selected for the lottery’s “diversity visa” interview, only to be deemed ineligible due to the ban.

“Our country is engulfed in wars and crises and we have lost everything,” Alsaidi said. “It’s a big dream for America.”

Some whose dreams were dashed, sought to bring them elsewhere.

Moeyed Kosa, a Syrian pharmacy university graduate who hoped to start a cosmetics company bearing his family’s name, a scholarship to the family to study business administration in the US after the country’s civil war to flee Jordan Was found. A few days before the visit, the US Embassy in Amman summoned him and canceled his visa.

He ended up studying in Italy instead, and he is not sure if he would apply for a US visa again, even though his brother now lives there.

“It’s not always easy,” Cosa said, “to try to open a door that was locked.”

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Associated Press writer Julie Watson in San Diego contributed to this report.

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The Associated Press religion coverage receives support from Lily Endowment through Conversation US The AP is solely responsible for this content.

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