The ban upheld by the Supreme Court by a 5-4 decision was not an executive order but a presidential proclamation through which citizens from five Muslim-majority countries — plus North Korea and Venezuela — were restricted entry into the United States.
The new proclamation allows citizens of the impacted countries to apply for a waiver, but it remains unclear how the waiver process works and how many people can come to the United States through it, according to Brittney Rezaei, an immigrant rights attorney at the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Bay Area office, and one of the panelists at the Oakland forum. .
“There’s no formal process in how they apply for it and how they get one,” said Rezaei. “The waiver process is, as some courts called it, window dressing.”
Mohamed Taleb, a community advocate for the Asian Law Caucus who participated in the forum, called the waiver process “a sham.”
“People’s cases have been either denied or on hold indefinitely,” said Taleb, a Yemeni immigrant who grew up in Oakland. “It’s left a lot of families feeling exhausted and broke.”
Taleb recounted his last visit to Yemen before his homeland was ravaged by war and his father was shot in the leg by a sniper. Yemenis, like Taleb’s sister and brother-in-law, fled to the nearby African country of Djibouti to seek refuge into the United States through the consulate there, but they faced months and even years to get the visa.
The Supreme Court decision has been disastrous news for some residents in the Bay Area, according to Payman Amiri, a co-founder Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California in Oakland and one of the panelists. He shared stories of immigrants and regulars at the Center who are separately indefinitely from their wives, husbands, fiancees and children.
Amiri also noted that the travel ban instilled fear in many immigrants who have permanent residency and even U.S. citizenship from traveling back to their home country or anywhere outside the United States.
“These are real people who get impacted,” said Amiri. “Some of them are directly affected by the Muslim ban and some of them are affected by effective fear.”
Sabiha Basrai, co-coordinator of Alliance of South Asians Taking Action, said that fighting against the Muslim ban is interlocked with fighting to stop separation of families of undocumented immigrants (at the border) and both should equally be demanded by Bay Area residents. Basrai said she participated in the blockade protest of the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement office in San Francisco earlier this week and encouraged attendees to take action.
“For Muslim Americans, we wanted them to see their struggles were connected to undocumented immigrants and that our struggles are linked together,” said Basrai. “These targets are not isolated. These acts enable them to target more communities.”
Oakland City Councilmember Abel Guillen kicked off the event by announcing that the city of Oakland will soon launch a hate crimes hotline to combat rising number of such crimes in the city.
All panelists expressed optimism that this ban, like other similar immigration bans in American history, will pass in time.
“Darkness of night will not last forever,” said Amiri. “The hope is that there is dawn and the sun will rise. I am sure we will pass this test in our country. But what it takes for all of us is to be present and participate and stand up against these injustices and together we can push the darkness.”