When President Trump’s second attempt at his “Muslim ban,” which he signed Monday, goes into effect on March 16, it will look no different to Rabyaah Althaibani from the first executive order.
The new executive order, twice as long as the first and more narrowly tailored, will ban people from six countries—Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen—from immigrating or traveling to the United States for 90 days. Iraq is off from the original list of seven banned countries, and in the latest executive order green-card holders and current visa holders are expressly exempt from the ban. There are no more special mentions of prioritizing refugees who are members of “minority religions,” which was interpreted as giving priority to Christians from Muslim-majority countries.
But even with these key changes, Trump’s latest executive order is, in intention and function, the same as the administration’s first time around.
“Thousands of innocent lives are put on hold, families are being separated,” Althaibani said on Monday from the offices of the New York Immigration Coalition. Althaibani, a Yemeni-American activist who lives in New York and whose family immigrated to America in the 1970s, will still be separated from her family as a result of this major policy change.
Her husband, Basheer Othman, fled the war in Yemen, first traveling from Djibouti to India and finally landing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where he is staying right now awaiting a visa to join Althaibani in New York. The two met in 2010 and forged their relationship in the heady days of the Arab Spring before they got engaged in 2015. They married in Goa, India, in January of 2016, but not before they held an Islamic ceremony in the Bronx, with someone standing in as a proxy for Othman. “I’m secular, he’s secular, but Baba was like, we’re not going to India unless we do the Islamic wedding first,” Althaibani said with a laugh. Two days later she flew to Goa and the two married there.
Althaibani returned to the United States and had been in the process of applying for a visa for Othman. “Knowing we would finally be able to be together made us so full of hope and joy,” she said. Now the ban has put their plans on hold. “I want my husband here with me,” she said. “No ban can keep us apart.”