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Travel Ban creates year of uncertainty

On January 27, 2017, President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13769, later nicknamed the “Travel Ban.” The ban immediately shattered the hope of tens of thousands of refugees around the world—many who had already undergone thorough vetting processes—the strictest in the world—by the U.S. government.

A year later, we are still faced with unprecedented numbers of people uprooted from their homes and countries by violence and civil strife—over 65 million refugees and internally displaced persons suffering, the U.S. shut the door on the most vulnerable in the world. For decades, the U.S. resettlement program has served as a permanent solution for the most vulnerable among the world’s refugees, where 75% of refugees in the world are women and children.

In Salt Lake City, two refugee families resettled by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) felt the sting of uncertainty caused by the travel ban: their families have been separated since April of last year.

Saif and his wife, Iman, arrived to Utah with their three children from Turkey after fleeing Iraq. However, vulnerable family members lingered in Turkey, most importantly Saif’s mother and his nephew. Though the family registered together with the UNHCR, they were prevented from travelling together and the continued litigation surrounding the travel ban complicated the circumstances. Saif’s mother depended on him for assistance due to a health concern. Now, the months stretch on with no word on when the family will be reunited.

Refugee family stands with Light One Candle sponsor family.

Saif and his wife, Iman, arrived to Utah with their three children from Turkey after fleeing Iraq. Iman stands with her three children and their Light One Candle sponsor family.

Photo: Tara Leung/IRC

“I feel helpless,” Saif mentioned during a recent conversation. “My mother struggles. I do not know how to help her come to live in America. We thought we would be living together here.”

Moustafa family poses at Breaking Bread dinner.
The Moustafa family attended Breaking Bread, our annual Thanksgiving-style dinner bridging cultural divides through food, conversation, and an evening together at the family table. Photo: Cate Vaden/IRC

Moustafa, a Syrian refugee father of three who arrived with his wife, left behind his brother and his brother’s family. Moustafa’s brother stopped receiving updates from the U.S. government once the travel ban was signed. The family is becoming increasingly hopeless of being reunited—they envisioned a life together in the U.S. Now, one brother wonders why he was allowed to travel and the other was not.

The travel ban crushed hopes of a brighter future for families like Saif's and Moustafa's to build new lives in safety for their children, their mothers, their nephews and brothers in the U.S.

These are just two of the thousands of families across the U.S. and around the world who have felt the harsh impact of the travel ban and other xenophobic policies, denying the dream of a brighter future for so many. You can let the world know these policies do not represent American values:

Stand with refugees and take action: Rescue.org/Banned.