WASHINGTON: Ramy Almansoob’s children have been asking every day for weeks: “Do we have a decision yet? Do we have a decision yet? Do we have a decision yet?”
The girls, ages 6, 9 and 13, still live in the war-torn capital of Yemen, where the seeming randomness of airstrikes has taught them to brace for a painful end. Last year, they mourned their grandmother, killed by a stray bullet through the head as she sat inside her home.
The girls knew that the U.S. Supreme Court would soon decide whether President Donald Trump’s ban on U.S. entry by citizens of five majority-Muslim countries, including Yemen, would stand. They knew that the ruling would determine whether they and their mother – whose visas were granted on the eve of the ban and then revoked – could finally join their father, a U.S. citizen, in America.
Tuesday’s Supreme Court ruling felt like a hammer’s final blow to Almansoob’s lingering hopes. For him and the thousands of other American citizens and permanent residents who have been waiting anxiously for the court’s word, the justices’ decision to uphold the ban presented a verdict not just on the fate of their families, but also on what it means to be American.
“For all my life, I’ve felt that this is my country,” said Almansoob, a 34-year-old structural engineer who was born in the United States and raised in Yemen, returning in 2015 to the suburbs of Washington to build a new life for his family. “We all knew that the United States is the place where you have freedom, and that’s what I always had in my mind. It’s not how it used to be.”
Almansoob applied to bring his wife and daughters to the United States a few months before Trump took office in January 2017. The ban, which seemed to echo Trump’s campaign call “for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” quickly followed. And after two amended versions and a series of court battles, the Supreme Court in December allowed for the temporary implementation of the ban on Yemenis, Syrians, Iranians, Somalis and Libyans.
Now the court has upheld the policy, a decision that added permanence to the sentiment among many American Muslims that the government views and treats them differently from other Americans.
“It has put me in the position of second-class citizenship,” said Abrar Omeish, a Libyan American in Virginia who recently ran for a spot on the school board in Fairfax County.
Civil rights and religious advocacy groups across the country reacted to the court’s decision Tuesday in a passionate uproar. They called it “hateful,” “a historic betrayal of values,” “a blank check . . . to discriminate,” a ruling that “will go down in history as one of the Supreme Court’s great failures.”
The Supreme Court “has given a green light to religious discrimination and animus,” warned Farhana Khera, the executive director of the group Muslim Advocates.
The human rights watchdog Amnesty International declared: “This hateful policy is a catastrophe all around.”
Activists made plans for more than a dozen rallies across the country Tuesday night in cities including Atlanta, Detroit, Houston, Minneapolis and Baltimore, with the slogans #NoMuslimBanEver and #StandWithMuslims.
But all the fiery outrage, the planned protests and the outpouring of sympathy and condolences from concerned friends, colleagues and politicians felt suddenly obsolete to Almansoob and many others Tuesday.
What mattered now was the question that Almansoob’s wife was asking through tears over the phone from 13,000 miles away, a few minutes after the decision flashed across television screens worldwide. “She asked that question that I don’t have an answer to,” he said. “What’s next? I don’t see any solution except trying to find another country for myself and my family to live in,” he said.