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Past the Muslim Ban, Immigration Roadblocks Remain - Leyla Doss

HAYLEY ZHAO, HOST: Four years ago, President Trump issued the so-called Muslim Ban, restricting immigration from a list of countries. One of Biden’s first initiatives as president was to remove that ban.

ARCELIA MARTIN, HOST: Now, advocates in New York City are hopeful that family members may be able to join them here - but the path to immigration remains uncertain. Leyla Doss reports.

LEYLA DOSS, BYLINE: The US state department estimates that more than 40,000 families in New York and across the country were directly impacted by the Muslim and African ban. Somali-American Afnan Salem lives in Ohio now. She came from Turkey as a refugee in 2010. Her 64-year-old father, Mohammed, lives in Malaysia. They hope to be reunited here--meanwhile they keep connected on the phone.

AFNAN SALEM: I talk to him first thing in the morning and then at nighttime when I'm going to bed. And it's been like that, for the 10-12 years that we've been here.

DOSS: But even though Biden has lifted the ban, many roadblocks to immigration remain.

SALEM: Because of COVID, the Trump administration put, like, further restrictions on people coming into the country. As of right now, there's no updates on his case until those bans expire.

DOSS: Rafael Urena is an immigration lawyer in New York. He says even with the ban lifted, there are still restrictions on travel into the US during the pandemic. This includes other limits on immigration marked to “preserve American jobs.” The process is also delayed by staff shortages in agencies and embassies, plus a backlog of over half a million cases. Urena says for clients getting into the immigration pipeline now, the process could take years.

RAFAEL URENA: You've waited three years and you've missed the entire infancy of your child. And now you're looking at another two year to three year delay because of the backlogs is heartbreaking.

DOSS: Sobha Wadhia is a professor of Law at Penn State. She says the Biden administration could shorten the process if applications didn’t have to start again from scratch.

SOBHA WADHIA: Will the State Department automatically reopen the immigrant visa applications that were denied because of the ban? Or will the individual have to make a new application, pay a new fee, have a new visa interview, in order to be admitted? So that’s, you know, one big question.

DOSS: ACLU lawyer Manar Waheed says that while she’s hopeful, the Biden administration has a lot of work to do.

MANAR WAHEED: “The current administration is working off of a system that has been largely destroyed.”

DOSS: For now, Afnan doesn’t know when her father will be able to join her. She’s set to graduate college in August.

SALEM: “He missed my middle school graduation, high school graduation. So I'm hoping that he makes it to my college graduation.”

DOSS: She hopes she won’t have to celebrate with her dad through a screen.

DOSS: Leyla Doss, Columbia Radio News.


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