Immigrant and refugee advocates celebrated Joe Biden’s first day in office when he eased a ban on U.S. entrance from immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries.
In a long-awaited move, thousands of people who had been denied the opportunity to see loved ones during Trump’s government were given hope of reconnection. As a result, activists, who were first pleased and enthusiastic, now complain that little has changed and that most applicants have not been reunited with their families or even notified of their status.
An executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice–Asian Law Caucus, AAAJ–ALC Aarti Kohli, said, “We tried our best, but this is unacceptable” (AAAJ-ALC). “We haven’t seen much progress, and people have been hurt in the process.”
More than 100 immigrant and refugee support groups from throughout the country signed a letter last month urging Biden to follow through, and Kohli’s San Francisco-based nonprofit was one of them. The No Muslim Ban Campaign and the National Iranian American Council spearheaded the movement.
Iran’s national organising director for the Iranian Council, Donna Farvard, said in a statement: “Where the rescission should have been a light of hope for those denied under the ban, many have instead given up on their hopes of coming to the US.” It is imperative that the administration of Vice President Joe Biden immediately correct these mistakes.”
An Iranian woman’s desire to join her lonesome sister in the United States and a Yemeni man’s sacrifices in order to fly to Malaysia for his application interviews are two examples cited by advocates. In the end, both obtained visas under the U.S. diversity visa lottery program but were denied entry under the ban imposed by former President Donald Trump due to the countries in which they were born. They were forced to return home.
There was a minimal indication that Trump’s executive order, issued in 2017, restricted access to the United States for citizens from particular countries based on national security concerns.
The ban scuppered the hopes and dreams of many people who had been planning to travel to the United States to be with loved ones. More than 41,000 people were denied visas as a direct result, according to activists, and that doesn’t include those who were discouraged from applying in the future.
U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 accepted a third version of the ban that bans visitors from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and North Korea from entering the United States on religious grounds. Two years after Trump’s departure, a similar restriction was enacted that included other African and Asian countries, including Nigeria and Sudan.
Confusion and disappointment resulted from feelings of joy and expectation.
Vice President Joe Biden ordered the State Department to present a plan to expedite applications that had been denied or delayed under the regulations within 45 days of his proclamation repealing the bans.
The Iranian council’s policy director, Ryan Costello, said, “We were excited by his day-one priority and anticipated it would lead to a huge spike” in visa processing. “The problem is, that hasn’t happened. On the ground, there has been no sense of relief.”
the department’s instructions only served to complicate matters further, according to AAAJ-ALC programme manager for national security and civil rights Hammad Alam, because they cut off applicants who had applied for visas before a specific date without giving any explanation and providing little to no guidance on when applicants or government officials should contact one another.
Additionally, those who were granted visas via the diversity visa programme, such Iranian Ehtesab and Yemeni Abulla, did not have their eligibility for re-examination considered by the State Department.
The online mechanism for waiving re-application fees for those denied visas due to the restriction has yet to be updated, so those who wish to reapply must pay the fees or forego reapplying at all, according to Alam. If you don’t factor in additional expenses for waivers or other services or medical testing, you could be looking at a bill of $200 to nearly $800.
Advocates claim that once people apply, they are caught up in an immigration backlog that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 outbreak, and many are unaware of their current legal status. As a result, many have chosen to stay in countries where they have no relatives rather than attempt the arduous journey across the ocean.
“Administrative delays” are to blame, Alam claimed. “What families should do is inconsistent across the board. It’s a mess even for immigration attorneys,” a source says.
108 national organisations, including the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Oxfam America, the Georgia Muslim Voter Project, South Dakota Voices for Peace, and the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, have signed the letter sent to Vice President Biden. Immigrants who want to join loved ones in the United States or get a job or medical care are among those affected by the policy recommendations outlined in this document.
To help people who have been affected by the restriction, the letter asks Vice President Biden to clarify the situation, restore consular service levels prior to the suspension, and review federal anti-terrorism policies that led to these prohibitions being put in place.
To keep families apart and in uncertainty is unconscionable, according to National Immigration Law Center executive director Marielena Hincapie, who made the remark. As a group, we call on the administration of Vice President Joe Biden to fulfil his campaign commitments and restore due process to individuals impacted.
It’s not apparent how many people have been able to secure visas after being denied under the ban, but in many cases, families are having to take it upon themselves to contact U.S. embassies, according to Alam of the AAAJ-ALC.
As he explained, “We don’t have enough lawyers to represent them all.” If there’s no clear direction, and even immigration lawyers are unsure, how are families supposed to deal with that??.” The government owes these folks reparation and courtesy, both of which are due.