Last week, President Trump signed an executive order closing America’s doors to refugees and travelers from Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Libya. He also authorized a military raid in southern Yemen that killed the 8-year-old American daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki instead of the late Al Qaeda operative’s colleagues.
The message is clear: Muslim lives don’t matter much to this administration, even if the government’s policies touch US citizens like this little girl.
To protest Mr. Trump’s immigration policy, Yemeni bodega owners across New York City closed their doors to customers today. They also plan on gathering at Borough Hall in the late afternoon for a rally. It’s the first major action organized by the Yemeni community, whose members run hundreds of grocery stores in the five boroughs according to organizers. The strike comes days after New York City cab drivers refused to take passengers to JFK airport, in protest of recent detentions of Muslim travelers there.
For the many immigrants from the seven countries—who play an integral role in New York City’s communities—the rules hit close to home. Ali Abdul, who works at the Yafa Deli on Fulton Street and Clinton Avenue in Brooklyn, is planning on going to the rally. This morning, he spoke of a friend who had waited years for a visa to come to the United States, but was sent back to Djibouti from his connecting airport in Qatar last week because of the ban. “It doesn’t affect me,” said Abdul. “My kids and wife are US citizens. But it makes me sad for other people. This kind of discrimination has been happening for a while, but now it’s happening more, even though we have three generations of Yemenis in America now.”
He turned away to place orders for a breakfast sandwich and bag a soft drink for a young customer. A notice to his right declared that cigarettes would not be sold to anyone born after 1996—the same year Abdul moved to the States. “This is my country. When I go back, I’m a visitor. Yemen is just for vacation; this is where our lives are.”
Yafa is a typical Brooklyn bodega—plastered with notices about ATMs and EBTs on the outside, overstuffed with snacks and conveniences on the inside. Yafa’s famous for its fried chicken, which comes in a half-dozen configurations (leg, thigh, breast, or combo; with or without fries), and today was being served by a Bangladeshi employee preparing to cut his workday short. The striking stores took mercy on the uncaffeinated morning crowd and stayed open in the morning, but won’t serve customers during the busy lunch hours through 8 in the evening.
An informal survey of bodega workers in three neighborhoods in Brooklyn suggests that they risk losing between $500 and $1,500. It’s a big financial hit for a small business—especially since many of the workers at these stores, while sympathetic to the strike, said they weren’t expecting much to come of it.