Immigration lawyer —Trump’s ban possibly “indefinite,” affects kids & terror victims

Maleeha Haq is a California-based immigration attorney who has represented numerous clients from countries affected by Donald J. Trump’s so-called Muslim Ban. The Anti Nihilist Institute’s Natalia Antonova recently spoke to Maleeha about the situation surrounding the ban and the people it affects directly.

Natalia: I’ve seen you mention elsewhere some really horrific stories of what is happening to your clients now that Donald Trump has issued an unprecedented executive order popularly known as the Muslim Ban. Without going into too much detail, because I understand that a lot of this information might be confidential — can you describe what is happening?

Maleeha: One of my clients is a 4-year-old Yemeni boy, who traveled to Malaysia from Yemen because of the danger of being in Yemen at this time. His mother and sibling are U.S. citizens and the father is a U.S. legal permanent resident with Yemeni citizenship.The child’s mom sponsored him for a visa and submitted all the required paperwork, which is extensive.

The U.S. embassy in Malaysia recently restricted Yemenis from getting visas from Malaysia, so we were having a hard time getting an interview scheduled (yes little kids also have to come to embassy interviews before getting visas). He had been separated from his parents and siblings for over a year.

Finally in mid-Jan, his interview was scheduled and his parents flew to Malaysia to bring him home. His immigrant visa was stamped, but the family was still abroad when Trump’s order restricting entry for all visa holders from Yemen came down.

The family is heartbroken for being so close to being together but yet still split apart.

Another client is a 20-year-old disabled young man, his 2 siblings, and his mother, all of whom are Iraqi citizens sponsored by their U.S. citizen father. [After] two years of processing, they had just received their passports with immigrant visas stamped in Dec 2016 and were making arrangements to permanently move to the U.S. when the Muslim ban came down.

The young man lost his legs in a car bombing in Baghdad and his father was looking forward to getting him the physical and psychological care he needed. Now that’s halted. It’s unimaginable the pain that this is causing the family.

Natalia: The Trump administration is doubling down and arguing that even children affected by the ban should not be spared, because they might also be dangerous. It seems that they are basically saying that “Islamic extremism is not cultural, but biological.” Some scary parallels to be drawn between that argument and arguments made against other “undesirable groups” throughout history — but how do you read it?

Maleeha: There is no doubt that only those of Muslim backgrounds are being targeted by this ban. Once even Muslim children are deemed dangerous, the dehumanization of an entire religion is truly complete. We all know what that resulted in World War II.

In a way, the blatant focus on Muslims can also be mobilizing. Anti-Muslim rhetoric in this country is not new, but what’s new is that it is coming from the mouths of those in the highest levels of power. It has mobilized the Muslim community to build stronger alliances with the African American community, the Japanese-American community, the Jewish community, and other historically persecuted groups. Really Trump has mobilized his own worst enemy through his actions and rhetoric.

Natalia: There has been a lot of legal and procedural chaos surrounding this ban. Many times, it seems that the people meant to police our borders are acting almost arbitrarily in how they choose to enforce it. Is this is a function of how the executive order is written?

Maleeha: Its a function of how it was rolled out and written. The language is broad and by its terms included greencard holders (i.e. “immigrants” from these countries also excluded), but the administration was forced to back away from that because it was clearly illegal.

The administration’s justification that this is a temporary moratorium for 90 days for select few unstable countries in order to assess our vetting procedures is a farce. The ban is going to continue after 90 days unless the administration is satisfied that the countries have provided sufficient information about its nationals to determine that they’re not a security threat.

I think the likelihood that the administration will change its tune after 90 days is not very high, The broad language used allows them to continue [the ban] indefinitely.

It was also rolled out without guidance to front-line officers about how to implement it, leading them to detain nationals from countries who are not even listed, simply because they are from other Muslim countries. The chaos at the airports was inevitable, and some would say, [happened] by design.

Natalia: Personally, I’m seeing a lot of similarities between both this ban and how it’s being enforced and the way similar decisions play out in countries that the U.S. typically sees as socially and legally inferior (the chaos on Russia’s borders after Putin had a temporary spat with Erdogan is certainly one recent example, though it didn’t last long) — and a lot of Americans are asking themselves, “How could things go wrong so quickly?” Do you have any thoughts on that?

Maleeha: By this broad and sweeping action, Trump has really eroded America’s image in the world as a beacon of fairness and diversity. Unfortunately we can no longer call ourselves a welcoming nation when we shut the door in the faces of visitors and refugees (who by the way are already “extremely vetted” for over 2 years before entry).

When I work with asylum seekers from other countries, I often include country condition reports to demonstrate that these people cannot be returned to their countries because of instability and lack of respect for human rights. I don’t think we are there yet, but things are rapidly changing to the point where one could imagine similar reports about the United States.

Natalia: As a lawyer, do you have any advice to offer to Americans who are looking at ways to resist this executive order as well as any future crackdowns by the Trump administration? (I definitely think this is only the beginning — I imagine you would agree?)

Maleeha: Future bans are definitely likely; more countries can be added to the list at any time. Now more than ever is the time to be engaged in the democratic process.

Everyone should be calling their congressperson; there is no excuse not to. Those who can, should participate in public protests.

If we know one thing, we know that our President watches cable news and is worried about crowd sizes.

We need to put it in his face that his actions are unacceptable and not what America is about.