Travel ban through the eyes of those who are in it
What is Travel Ban? On January 27th 2017, President Trump signed an executive order prohibiting nationals of 7 Muslim majority countries from entering the United States. The order survived several legal challenges and was finally upheld by the Supreme Court on June 26th 2018. To this day, the order continues to tear apart families of 5 Muslim majority countries, and negatively affect the lives of legal immigrants, permanent residents and even citizens of the United States with ties to those nations.
Making a new narrative
While there was a lot of outrage when the Travel Ban first came out, now most people are not even aware of the fact that it exists. However, just like any other law, the impact of the Travel Ban is much more evident now that 2 years has passed. That’s why we decided to create a collective voice showing what the Ban means for the nationals of the banned countries and also expose how it is being implemented. To maximize the number of stories, and create an inclusive narrative we empowered users by giving them the option to share their stories anonymously. Also, we reached out to various communities and groups on social media and messaging apps, like Telegram, which is very popular among Iranians. Click on the button to see our video crowdsourcing tool.
We have collected 60 videos so far, including 40 from Iranians, 7 from Americans, 5 from Iranian-Americans, 3 from Syrian-Americans, 3 from Syrians, and 2 from Somalians.
We were able to get more stories from Iranian citizens as a result of two factors: our personal ties to the Iranian community which facilitated outreach, and the fact that among the 7 nations included in the ban, Iranians are affected disproportionately and in larger numbers.
Every story matters
Most of those affected by the ban are very concerned about their privacy. They refuse to speak up; because they are afraid an official in department of state who will review their application would come across their video or comment about the travel ban, and reject them because they are “upset”. For most, the stakes are too high: living with a loved one, future professional opportunities, or their current immigration status. They cannot take any risks.
1. US citizens & permanent residents are suffering consequences of the Ban
Following the news of the travel ban, our observation was that many people chose not to pursue their plans for visiting or immigrating to the US. The visitors chose other destinations, professionals started considering other countries if they had the option to. One group however, stuck to their plans despite the travel ban: family members of US citizens and permanent residents. They have no choice but to reunite with their spouse, child, or parent who is already living in the US.
Stories from 4 US citizens:
Stories from permanent residents:
2. Waiver is a sham
We are not the first to mention this, but it is very important to highlight that one of the key factors leading to the victory of the ban in courts was a waiver provision which would supposedly allow those with strong reasons to come to the US do so. However according to two former consular officers they were told to deny or delay almost all waivers, hence the 98% rejected waivers. Sarah Gardiner, who is a former foreign Service officer, has shared her experience with us and it is in consistent with stories that people have shared in their videos.
These stories show how waiver requests of deserving applicants with the most legitimate reasons, extreme hardships, letters from senators, post-doc position and Etc. have been rejected or is in administrative processing for months with no updates or end date.
3. The Ban worked retroactively
Those affected immediately by the ban are actually people who started the immigration process a long time ago. They made their most important life decisions and plans based on the law of the land at the time. As they were approaching the finish line, the law changed. And it worked retroactively, meaning it affected everyone with a pending application.
4. The Ban Works Against the National Interest
Among the many people who are banned are advanced degree students, professors, scientists, artists, and businessmen. Even when they are granted visas, the majority receive a single entry visa. That means if they leave the United States to visit their family (or to attend a conference, for a business trip, etc.), they need to re-apply for a visa. With Travel Ban this is impossible. Now they are stuck in the US, unable to see their families for years and too invested to simply “go back to their country”.
5. Approved Green Cards are not being processed
Many green card applicants have been waiting for months after their approval to finalize the last steps of the process or receive the physical card. For them it is about years of navigating the costly immigration process, only for the ban to block them just before they could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Now, they are stuck in a bureaucratic limbo with no end in sight.
Interested to see more stories or add yours?
Repeal The ban
Ultimately we want the Travel Ban to be repealed. In the meantime, here are the 3 things that the congress can do to alleviate the immediate burdens felt by those impacted by the Ban: