Yemenis whose applications were rejected include a mother breastfeeding her infant son, a U.S. citizen; the teenage son of a U.S. citizen who would likely be conscripted into a militia if returned to Yemen, and a five-year-old girl whose mother is a U.S. citizen.
WASHINGTON – Though it rarely receives much attention from the media, the crisis in Yemen is undeniably the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, as a Saudi Arabian-led war — waged with the United States’ blessing and complicity – has put over ten million Yemenis at the brink of starvation and led to the largest outbreak of cholera in the history of the world. With thousands of civilian deaths amid the Saudi-led and U.S.-backed coalition’s bombing of schools, hospitals and even funerals, the fate of over 18 million Yemenis hangs in the balance.
Amid U.S. complicity in the violence that foreign governments have waged against the Yemeni people, a new study authored by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Rule of Law Clinic at Yale Law School has revealed the mass-denial of visa waivers to Yemeni nationals, even those who husbands, wives, mothers and/or fathers are American citizens. The study, after conducting over 30 interviews with Yemenis applying for visas at the U.S. consulate in Djibouti, ultimately concludes that the newest iteration of the Trump administration’s so-called “Muslim ban” is hardly being interpreted in a neutral or security-based manner, as the administration has long suggested. Instead, it shows that Yemeni nationals, particularly those with family in the United States, are being discriminated against on the basis of their nationality while U.S. foreign policy supports the destruction of their country and the genocide of its people.
Read the CCR’s Report: Window Dressing the Muslim Ban
“Case by case review” means “forget it”
As a result of a Trump executive order, Yemen became among the countries included in the so-called “Muslim ban” in February of last year, suspending nationals from that country as well as six others from entering the United States. Though the justification for the ban has been concerns about national security, countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, that are known to fund and provide safe-haven to terror groups were absent from the ban, suggesting that national security was not the true motivating factor behind the policy.
The backlash from the ban led the Trump administration to amend the policy, including case-by-case waivers that allow consular officers to provide a path for obtaining U.S. visas to those who would be otherwise prevented from doing so as a result of the ban — but only if they meet a number of conditions. These factors include proving that the rejection of a visa would cause “undue hardship” and that the applicant “poses no national security or public-safety threat to the United States.” The new Yale Law School study has revealed that, particularly in Yemen’s case, the waiver system has done little to change the fate of Yemenis seeking U.S. visas under the ban.
The study details that, since the changes made to the ban, the waiver process has largely been ignored, as almost all of such waivers have been denied, achieving essentially the same results as the previous versions of the ban. Ultimately, of the 8,406 visa applications by Yemeni nationals received and processed between December 2017 and January 2018, only two received waivers. Those rejected included a Yemeni mother breastfeeding her infant son, a U.S. citizen; the teenage son of a U.S. citizen who would likely be conscripted into a militia if returned to Yemen, and a five-year-old girl whose mother is a U.S. citizen.
The study’s results also provided evidence that the mass rejections were not “security-motivated,” as the Trump administration has long claimed, given that less than 1 percent of Yemeni visa applicants who were able to demonstrate that they would suffer undue hardship if returned to Yemen and that they posed no public safety or national security threat were successful in obtaining waivers. The report notes, however, that that figure jumped beginning in April, when Supreme Court oral arguments regarding the Muslim Ban increased the scrutiny of the policy’s implementation.
The report also notes that discrimination against Yemenis in the U.S. immigration process significantly predates both the Trump administration and the current conflict in Yemen, with the U.S. government adding major hurdles for Yemeni immigration applications beginning in 2009. That year, a U.S. government cable detailed government concerns of “fraudulent activity” at the U.S. Embassy in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a, leading the State Department to create additional requisites for Yemeni applicants. The result was a “massive backlog” of immigrants visas at the embassy, according to an inspection conducted a year later.
This measure notably coincided with the Obama administration’s expansion of an illegal U.S. air war in Yemen, which resulted in 166 drone strikes and 16 airstrikes from that year until Obama left office in January 2017. The State Department under Obama also revoked U.S. passports of Yemeni-Americans without explanation on several occasions over the course of 2012 while those individuals were traveling abroad.
Trump has continued that war while also continuing the Obama administration’s policy of aiding the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen, including the U.S.’ role in the naval blockade of the country as well as “secret” torture prisons run by the United Arab Emirates in the country’s south. However, Trump’s “Muslim Ban” has made it more difficult for Yemenis seeking to flee the violence, namely those that wish to live with their relatives already residing in the United States.
The Trump administration’s mass denial of visas to Yemenis, as revealed by this study, lays bare the double perfidy of U.S. policies, whereby the government’s complicity in the destruction of a country is coupled with a failure to accept responsibility – in the form of providing for refugees, asylum seekers, etc. – for its direct involvement in those destructive conflicts.
Top Photo | Standing next to her mother, Samar Alwahiri, 3-year-old Laila Alamri, of Yemen, tries to make a heart shape with her fingers at Los Angeles International Airport, Feb. 8, 2017, in Los Angeles. Donald Trump’s travel ban left Yemenis stranded in and elsewhere. Jae C. Hong | AP
Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.