COLUMBUS, Ohio – The very first thing Mohamed Salem Ali did when he arrived at John Glenn Columbus Worldwide Airport was play a trick on his grandson, Rashed.
The 61-year-old Somali man walked slowly previous the 7-year-old, grinning at him from behind his masks and ready for the boy to note it was his grandfather strolling previous. When the boy did understand who he was, he went to provide his grandfather an enormous hug.
Ali was becoming a member of his household in Columbus, Ohio, after 11 years of separation, due partially to the Trump administration’s “Muslim Ban.”
On the airport, Ali greeted his daughter, Afnan Salem, 22; his different two grandchildren, Rashed’s sisters, Reem, 6, and Rahaf, 5, whom he had by no means met earlier than; his daughter, Sabah, 24; and his spouse, Fadumo Hussein, 49, with hugs and exclamations of “Papa!”
Moments later, he would greet his two eldest, twin brothers Abdelrauuf and Abdulritha, each 29.
The reunion Thursday was a cheerful one for a household separated for therefore lengthy, however the identical might not be the case for different households like theirs.
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Years of separation: ‘It’s been such an extended, exhausting course of’
Ali is one among a number of thousand refugees and immigrants who’ve waited years to reunite with their households resulting from Trump administration insurance policies, together with banning folks from a number of Muslim-majority and African nations from coming into the USA.
Although the Biden Administration lifted Trump’s bans on day one, permitting Ali to affix his household, the wait for a lot of immigrants searching for to do the identical doubtless isn’t over, specialists say. The administration has but to set a better cap on the variety of refugees admitted every year or to provide clear steering on what’s subsequent for these whose visas had been denied because of the bans.
Avideh Moussavian, director of federal advocacy on the Nationwide Immigration Regulation Middle, mentioned an estimated 74,000 folks utilized for visas and had been immediately affected by the bans from January 2017 by means of the top of January 2021.
Of these, about 41,000 had been denied visas and couldn’t get an exception or a waiver.
Ali is right here as a result of his immigrant visa — which he utilized for in January 2017 by means of one among his sons who now a citizen — was by no means outright denied, and was not too long ago authorized, mentioned Angie Plummer, government director of Group Refugee and Immigration Providers (CRIS), one among two refugee resettlement businesses in Columbus.
“It’s been such an extended, exhausting course of,” mentioned Afnan, who is ready to graduate from Ohio State College in August. She mentioned she is so glad her father will get to see her stroll throughout the stage, particularly after he missed her highschool commencement and so many different household celebrations.
“He was truly alleged to be right here 4 years in the past, however he was stopped due to the journey ban,” she mentioned.
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A cheerful shock: ‘We waited for this second for therefore lengthy’
Ali’s visa being authorized and his flight being scheduled so quickly was a shock for the entire household, Afnan mentioned. It was a aid for them, too, particularly after being separated for therefore lengthy.
“My largest worry was one among us passes away earlier than we’re reunited,” mentioned Ali’s spouse, Hussein, who visited her husband in 2019 with Afnan and Rashed. “I am so grateful to God he lastly reunited with our household.”
Hussein gave her husband a hug when he obtained off the airplane after which lovingly adjusted his face masks earlier than rubbing his arm as he talked to his grandchildren.
“The most effective factor on the earth is having your loved ones below one roof,” she mentioned.
She was excited to indicate her husband their residence in Ohio, and watched fortunately as he lifted his grandchildren for hugs and posed for pictures with them at baggage declare.
“We waited for this second for therefore lengthy,” Afnan mentioned.
The household has remained shut by means of the years, regardless of their distance, Afnan mentioned. They talked day-after-day over the telephone or Facetime, even Ali’s grandchildren, his son Abdelrauuf’s kids.
“They had been very excited to see him in actual life,” Abdelrauuf mentioned of his kids, one among whom was holding her grandfather’s hand as all of them left the airport.
Afnan remembers when she and Rashed left her father in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the place he was dwelling, to return to Columbus after their journey to see him in 2019.
Rashed requested her, “‘Why cannot grandpa go along with us?'” she mentioned, and she or he replied that he is not allowed to return but due to a ban by the USA authorities.
“He mentioned, ‘however grandpa is an effective man. Can I simply inform them that?'” Afnan mentioned.
“I do know the immigration course of takes without end, however each household deserves to be collectively,” Afnan mentioned. “I really feel like I used to be being advised I did not need to be with my dad as a result of he is Somali.”
‘A extremely large message’
The Trump administration issued a number of bans on folks from sure nations, a lot of them majority-Muslim, together with Somalia, usually criticized as “Muslim Bans.”
Throughout Biden’s marketing campaign, the candidate promised to roll again the bans and enhance the variety of refugees resettled within the nation.
He rescinded the ban on his first day in workplace, Jan. 20, however hasn’t elevated the variety of refugees from the historic low of 15,000.
“To have that dedication fulfilled as a day one promise in issuing that proclamation that rescinded the bans was a very large message,” Moussavian mentioned.
She additionally praised the president’s language in his proclamation ending the bans.
“These actions are a stain on our nationwide conscience and are inconsistent with our lengthy historical past of welcoming folks of all faiths and no religion in any respect,” Biden’s proclamation reads.
There may be nonetheless extra to be executed, Moussavian mentioned.
Some individuals who had been denied visas because of the bans will now should reapply, and she or he mentioned that is an unfair burden for individuals who have been discriminated towards.
“We clearly understood it could take greater than sooner or later to totally deal with the influence,” Moussavian mentioned. “On the identical time we completely wish to guarantee this administration does extra to acknowledge this dedication.”
Longing for change
Moussavian and different immigration advocates are urging the Biden administration to extend the quantity of refugees allowed to be resettled within the nation; guarantee individuals are made conscious the bans have been lifted; and attain out to folks to reapply for a visa.
“The final administration actually wished to ship a really clear message of, ‘Do not come right here, you are not welcome right here,’ and so they did that in so many various methods,” Moussavian mentioned. “So which means this administration actually must be dedicated past simply phrases on paper.”
Immigration advocates are additionally pushing for passage of the Nationwide Origin-Based mostly Antidiscrimination for Nonimmigrants (NO BAN) Act in Congress. It’s a invoice that might make sure that it’s harder for presidents to place bans in place that discriminate towards folks coming into the nation.
Plummer mentioned many refugees are nonetheless not sure about when they are going to be reunited with their members of the family.
“Folks actually had an expectation, a bit too excessive, that Biden is sworn in and out of the blue households are going to start out coming,” Plummer mentioned.
Moussavian mentioned nationally, it is laborious to trace circumstances affected by rolling again the bans, however that she hasn’t heard of many individuals coming right here.
“Time is ticking and individuals are ready,” Plummer mentioned. “We struggled for 4 years and actually noticed this gentle on the finish of the that darkish tunnel. It looks like the sunshine’s dimming a little bit bit.”
Observe reporter Danae King on Twitter: @DanaeKing
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