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The Bodega Strike Against Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration
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On Thursday, thousands of Yemeni-Americans turned out at a rally in Brooklyn, outside Borough Hall, to protest President Trump’s anti-Muslim travel ban. Seemingly every person in the crowd had a story to tell about how the ban affected him or her personally, and every story was one of separation.

Amer Yafai, who was standing near the top of Borough Hall’s stone steps, has lived in the United States for five years and works at a hookah lounge on Atlantic Avenue. His wife and two-year-old daughter are in Yemen, and he hasn’t seen them in a year and a half. With only a green card, he now worries about leaving the country. Ammar al-Mansouri, the owner of a small bodega in Brooklyn, is an American citizen. But his mother, wife, and eight-year-old son are all in Yemen. It’s been three years since he last saw them. Afrah Saad has lived in the United States for seventeen years and works in health insurance. Her sister is in Yemen, while her sister’s fiancé lives here. How much longer would they have to live apart? Bassem Saleh, an employee at a Yemeni restaurant, spoke with concern about a friend who went to visit Yemen recently, and who was on his way home to the United States when he heard about Trump’s order, last Friday. Stranded in Dubai, the friend had to fly back to Yemen, while his wife and children wait for his return.

Several yards from the steps, near a cluster of TV-news vans, stood Abdul Kareem Yafai, the owner of Cobble Hill Mini Mart, who has lived in the United States for twenty-one years. Yafai is an American citizen, and has been trying for years to bring his wife and their four children to the United States. The U.S. Embassy closed in Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, in February, 2015, owing to the increasing and unpredictable violence there, after which Yemenis were forced to travel to other countries to apply for visas to the United States. In the fall, Yafai’s family had flown to Somalia, then Kenya, and then Djibouti hoping to find an embassy to work with. But since Saturday, Yafai told me, a sign posted at the U.S. Embassy in Djibouti told applicants not to seek an appointment for ninety days. Yafai wondered if he should send his family to Egypt to wait it out. He estimated that he had already spent twenty thousand dollars on their flights, lodging, food, mandatory medical checkups, and visa-application fees. He grabbed one of the anti-Trump signs being passed around and entered the crowd that was shouting “No Wall! No Ban!”

Trump’s executive order, signed on Friday, temporarily banned citizens of Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, and Somalia from entering the United States. (It also halted all refugee admissions.) This week, the White House argued that the order’s focus on seven predominantly Muslim countries was not a ban on Muslims, and that its intent was to allow time for the establishment of “extreme vetting” measures for travellers and migrants from these countries going forward. Immigrant-rights activists and lawyers have long complained that travellers, immigrants, and even naturalized American citizens from Yemen, in particular, are subject to unfair and intrusive scrutiny. But Trump’s order was much bolder and more systematic than anything they or the community had seen before. Last Saturday, reports emerged of Customs and Border Protection agents detaining not just asylum seekers but also green-card holders and naturalized citizens from the seven countries targeted by the order.

Saturday night, as crowds at airports around the country gathered to protest the order, a group of leaders from the Yemeni community held an emergency meeting in Bay Ridge. Zaid Nagi, a businessman who lives in Brooklyn, arrived late—he came straight from the protests at J.F.K. “Everybody was scared, ” he recalled. “We were paralyzed.” The group discussed possible measures they could take, and after the meeting ended the discussion continued on Facebook and over the phone.

Source: www.newyorker.com

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