Trump's Muslim Ban Has Been In Force For a Year. I'm Still Waiting to See My Mom | Opinion

The separation from my mother has been too much to bear. For a long time, I had to cry myself to sleep. I have had to live without seeing my mother for 4 years. She has missed her oldest son's college graduation, her children's birthdays, and her loving husband. Like many others, she has been barred from entering this country simply because of her Yemeni nationality.

I am just one of many Yemeni-Americans robbed of seeing their family because of the Supreme Court's decision, one year ago today, to uphold Trump's Muslim ban. The ban blocks people from five Muslim-majority nations—Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen—from entering the country. Yes, it includes a few countries that are not Muslim-majority as filler, but this legalistic lip-service does little to mask Trump's oft-repeated intent of implementing a Muslim Ban. And yet even I didn't realize how much of a burden the ban would come to have on my people, especially on my mother who remains in limbo in Cairo, Egypt after escaping war-torn Yemen.

The continued enforcement of the ban has had several consequences. Visa seekers now face a blunt default message of rejection. The fact that so many people from Muslim-majority nations cannot gain entry even when they have relatives based in the U.S. makes me question if our Oval Office even remembers the so-called American values of love, diversity, liberty, and acceptance.
Being separated from my mother and knowing that so many others cannot be reunited with their families has led me to depression, which has not gone away even with time. Knowing that I will not be able to experience the love, support, and guidance of my mother while she is still alive is heartbreaking.

America is known as a land of immigrants, long welcoming others seeking to live up to the American Dream. As a bilingual Yemeni-American, first-generation college graduate, and proud New Yorker, I appreciate the importance of diverse perspectives in to solving conflicts and building communities. As I see it, success requires people to exchange ideas, seek common ground, and build intercultural bridges.

My diverse background is one of the most valuable things I have to offer my country, to serve and protect the interests of our American people, as an unapologetically American Muslim. But even a year on, the Supreme Court's decision continues to signal, unequivocally, that Muslims are not welcomed here.

American Muslims are necessary to the fabric of this society. We are contributing to many different establishments and institutions.We are—if you're reading Mr. President—part of what makes this country great. For instance, just our Yemeni American community alone owns more than 4,000-5,000 thousand bodegas in NYC, representing 50 percent of small bodegas across the city. These bodega owners contribute to this country not only economically, but socially as well.
And now our community is organizing in response to the Muslim ban. The Yemeni American Merchants Association (YAMA), is a grassroots, non-profit organization that was founded after the hugely successful bodega strike in opposition to the ban.

Yemeni nationals are left with no hope, leaving a torn-war country with the intention of coming to the United States to join their immediate family members. The American public needs to realize that the Trump Administration neither stands for nor represents the ideals that our founding fathers enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

Congress needs to act to repeal the ban. The Trump administration promised and has not delivered a rigorous waiver program. In practice, the waivers are window-dressing. A mere 5 percent of requested waivers are granted, often only after lawsuits or public shaming of the State Department. Yemeni child Shaema Alomari, who has cerebral palsy, only got a visa after she was mentioned in oral arguments before the Supreme Court. Another Yemeni, Shaima Swileh, only got a visa to visit her dying toddler in Oakland after public outrage on social media.

I want the rest of my fellow Americans to really understand how hurtful this ban continues to be. My mother could attend neither my college graduation, nor my brother's, when he graduated from middle school. We each walked off the stage with diplomas in our hands and headed to an empty home, with no happiness or laughter, while others had their parents waiting for them to give them hugs. I hope that our American public and institutions will realize that the Muslim Ban's sole and only purpose was to separate families like mine.

Ayyad Algabyali is a Yemeni-American working for the Yemeni American Merchants Association in New York as Director of Advocacy. His family has been personally impacted by the Muslim Ban.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.

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