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Trump Ban Leaves 12-Year-Old Girl Facing Return To War-Torn Yemen

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Trump Ban Leaves 12-Year-Old Girl Facing Return To War-Torn Yemen

Muslim ban protest

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica.

Ahmed Ali spent Sunday at a hotel near Djibouti’s International Airport, anxiously checking CNN on his phone to see if the Trump administration would allow him to fly to the United States with Eman, his 12-year-old daughter.

Ali, 39, is a U.S. citizen, but his daughter had been living with grandparents in Yemen while American authorities processed her visa application. After years of waiting, the U.S. embassy issued the precious piece of paper last Wednesday, and father and daughter were excitedly preparing Friday for the flight that would unite Eman with her mother and two sisters.

They got through security at the airport before an official informed them that people with a Yemeni passport, like Eman, were prohibited from traveling to the U.S. by the executive order President Donald Trump says is needed to keep the country safe from terrorism.

“I got shocked because I don’t know what I have to do,” Ali said in a telephone interview on Sunday. “I can’t take her back to Yemen. And I can’t leave her here by herself — she is only 12 years old.”

The Trump order, which bars citizens from Yemen and six other countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days, has left Eman in what amounts to a stateless limbo. She cannot join her American-citizen parents and family in the U.S. She has no roots or family in Djibouti.

And so on Sunday, her father, who works in a central California strip mall, was trying to decide how long he could continue to wait with her in a hotel he can scarcely afford. He said his only real choice — to send her back to the war-torn Yemeni city where she has lived under intense bombardment from Saudi forces backed by the U.S. — was unacceptable.

The plight of Ali and Eman is part of a larger story of lives thrown into disarray. Across the world, reports have emerged of doctors, students, performers and ordinary families whose permission to enter the U.S. had been granted and then summarily revoked.

Eman spent much of yesterday in tears as Ali struggled to explain as best he could what’s happening.

“She can’t really understand,” he told me. “She said: ‘Why only Yemenis? Why only us? Why only me?’”

Ali, the family’s sole breadwinner has no idea what will happen next. The plane tickets, now gone, cost more than $2,000. The Lagon Bleu hotel, where he has been for almost two weeks, is expensive. In Los Banos, the town where he lives, he has worked for more than a decade as a manager at the Buy N Save Market, a small shopping center that includes a deli, a taqueria, and a gas station.

This morning he went to the U.S. embassy in Djibouti seeking answers but was turned away. “We can’t do anything about it,” a security guard told him.

The process that culminated in Eman being barred from boarding the plane Saturday began more than five years ago, according to the family’s lawyer, Katherine Lewis.

Eman’s mother is an American citizen by birth, but spent most of her life in Yemen. When Eman was born in Yemen, her parents assumed — incorrectly — that she was an American citizen too. Complicated rules requiring five years of residency in the U.S. for the parent of a child born abroad meant that Eman did not automatically become a citizen at birth.

When the couple realized this, they sought legal help. But cases involving Yemenis face long delays, made worse by the war. The U.S. closed its embassy in Yemen years ago and Yemeni citizens applying for visas now have to make appointments in Djibouti.

The particular irony of Eman’s situation is that “as soon as she entered the United States, she would be a lawful permanent resident and eligible for U.S. citizenship immediately,” said Lewis, who is with the firm Van Der Hout, Brigagliano & Nightingale in San Francisco. Eman has what is known as an immediate relative immigrant visa.

Lewis is now reaching out to the offices of California’s senators to see if they can help.

The Trump order includes provision for exceptions on a case-by-case basis in the national interest.

The court orders that stayed aspects of Trump’s executive order do not appear to affect this case because Eman is not yet in the U.S., Lewis said. And the possible change to the order exempting green card holders does not seem to apply either because Eman will not have a green card unless she can enter the United States, something she is barred from doing.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

IMAGE: Muslim women pray during the “Boston Protest Against Muslim Ban and Anti-Immigration Orders” protesting President Donald Trump’s executive order travel ban in Boston. REUTERS/Brian Snyder



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  2. Aaron Zanzibari January 30, 2017

    Only a cruel, heartless and godless individual such as Trump would turn his back on such a child and others like her. If it seems like I’m worked up over this, it’s just because I was raised to have compassion for others, and it comes with being a Baha’i. Living in Jim Crow Miss. was a wonderful experience despite the confusion and irritation of everyday reminders of where to go and where not to go, what to do and what not to do.
    Trump got the short end of the deal of life by having to cope with luxury and every comfort of life—much like many GOP officials and supporters. And this much luxury and material comfort leads to callousness and lack of empathy for others at the other end of the economic/social scale.

    “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” —Mark 19:24

    This doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to gain admittance. According to Baha’u’llah’s further elucidation on this topic, this verse means it will be harder and more of a challenge to have wealth and to be noble and develop other virtues at the same time. He goes on further to say that for the person who has both wealth and a saintly character, such a person can illuminate the entire world.

    The verse by Jesus stated more fully for today’s society comensurate with our capacity is the following by Baha’u’llah:

    “O YE THAT PRIDE YOURSELVES ON MORTAL RICHES! Know ye in truth that wealth is a mighty barrier between the seeker and his desire, the lover and his beloved. The rich, but for a few, shall in no wise attain the court of His presence nor enter the city of content and resignation. Well is it then with him, who, being rich, is not hindered by his riches from the eternal kingdom, nor deprived by them of imperishable dominion. By the Most Great Name! The splendor of such a wealthy man shall illuminate the dwellers of heaven even as the sun enlightens the people of the earth!”

    Therefore, it would seem to me that Trump ain’t shining any light anywhere that I can see—a flashlight gives off far more light.

    1. latebloomingrandma January 31, 2017

      Beautifully stated.!

    2. Just A Citizen January 31, 2017

      If you’re so emotionally distraught then send the guy some money for the hotel room so he can stay there with his daughter until this is cleared up.

      1. dpaano February 1, 2017

        I think many of us would do that if we had the information on where to send the money and the confidence that it will go where it’s supposed to go! I know that I, as an American citizen, would be MORE than willing to send what I could to help out if I only knew WHERE to send it. Many of us would feel the same way, I’m sure! But, we can’t do this for ALL the people that have been affected by this idiotic ban by our illustrious idiotic president!

        1. Just A Citizen February 1, 2017


          And who is to blame for that? Ever wonder why the bleeding hearts come out of the wood work with “tragic examples” yet provide no clues on how to help. Other than throwing a fit with the other political party.

          There are very few of these types of cases affected by the temporary stoppage from the 7 countries in question. Some people will be inconvenienced for awhile while the new vetting process is finished. Then they will resume their trip to the USA. Provided they can pass the test.

          I bet you have not heard about all the expired green cards caught trying to come back into the US this past weekend, have you.

    3. dpaano February 1, 2017

      The fact of 45’s upbringing means everything! As I’ve said time and time again, he has NO idea how the poor and middle-class survive on a day-to-day basis. For his so-called “followers” to believe that he’s going to do all that he promised because of them is beyond belief! He and his billionaire cronies will do NOTHING unless it benefits them personally! Watch and see…..they may THINK he’s doing their bidding, but his real reasons are well hidden!

  3. Thoughtopsy January 30, 2017

    You need to update your slogan, America:

    “Land of the Cowards, Home of the Cruel.”

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  5. johninPCFL January 31, 2017

    “She said: ‘Why only Yemenis? Why only us? Why only me?’” Agent Orange has no hotels there.


  6. Just A Citizen January 31, 2017

    The article claims the “complicated” law was responsible for the misunderstanding and delay in getting the daughter’s visa approved. Yet the law cited includes a provision which clearly indicates the daughter was a “citizen” or “national” and should have been admitted 5 years ago.

    Something is being left out of this story. An explanation of why the 5 year period applied instead of the 1 year period.

  7. dpaano February 1, 2017

    This is pretty sad! 45 and his followers seem to have the idiotic idea that ALL Muslims are terrorists and that’s just WRONG! Most of the Muslims in America are law-abiding, hard-working individuals who love this country. Those who want to come here are also going to add to the diversity of this nation! All 45 is doing is feeding ISIS the propaganda that they need to activate their recruiting efforts here! His so-called “ban” will do NOTHING to make this country safer, and, in most cases, will only cause our safety to be compromised even more than ever! The current vetting program is already very strenuous, and the fact that we have not had any major terrorist incidents in the U.S. since 9/11 speaks for itself! Also, the fact that the countries that he so conveniently left out happen to be the ONLY countries who already have sent terrorists to the U.S. who have done considerable damage is very questionable. Is it because he has business deals in those countries? People need to be asking this very important question because his actions in the future will be based on this, and that’s scary!


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