For four years, thousands of Muslims have been locked out of the United States as a result of Donald Trump’s executive order banning immigrants from six Muslim majority countries.
Dreaming of a better future, many Muslims paid a lot of attention to the US elections which culminated in Joe Biden’s victory and accordingly, his order on day one repealing the so-called “Muslim ban”.
“Finally, happiness. Now we start planning again,” Alaa Jamal, a wife of Sudanese Monzir Hashim who won the State Department’s annual lottery to obtain a green card for the US last year, The New York Times reported.
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The dream to travel to the US vanished after knowing that President Trump had barred Sudanese citizens from immigrating to the United States.
Watching President Biden’s inauguration on January 20, Alaa wept with joy.
Her family is one of 42,000 people prevented from entering the US from 2017 to 2019, mostly from Muslim-majority nations like Iran, Somalia, Yemen and Syria.
Negar Rahmani, a Muslim graduate student of neuroscience at the University of Rhode Island, could not travel home (Iran) fearing that she might be shut out of the US for good.
When the pandemic struck in November, Rahmani’s 56-year-old mother in Iran was hospitalized with Covid-19, leaving her daughter with an agonizing dilemma. After two weeks, her mother’s condition deteriorated rapidly, and she later died.
“I feel like I have been in a cage for four years,” she said, breaking into sobs.
“I could have gone back every summer. My mom could have visited me. I feel the travel ban in my bones and skin.”
Immediately after repealing the ban, many prospective visitors have been picking up the pieces to try again.
“It’s oof, relief, an optimistic feeling,” said Nizar Asruh, a Libyan in San Diego who said he hoped his mother could now get a visa to come visit.
Yet, some immigration advocates warned that a return to the pre-Trump system will not be a magic solution.
“Even before, the system was discriminatory and not welcoming to Muslims,” said Gadeir Abbas, a staff attorney for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
“It was under the Obama administration that you had the expansion of a terrorism watch list to over a million names that, as far as we can tell, is essentially a list of Muslims.”
For others, the ban is a closed, tragic chapter.
Mohamed Abdelrahman, a Libyan businessman, won a green card lottery only to be banned from entering the US due to the ban. Seeing his dreams of having a better life shattered, he suffered a stroke and died.
If there had been no ban, “his life might have been completely different,” said his nephew, Mohamed Al-Sheikh, speaking by phone from Tripoli.
“He just needed a stable place to live for the rest of his life.”