On September 25th, 2017, President trump released Travel Ban 3.0. The list of banned visitors from countries now included Yemen, Chad, together with other five countries. The inclusion of Chad aroused immediate controversy in the media, considering its status as a long-term US ally in fighting against terrorism. 1 In contrast, news did not appear to be surprised by the inclusion of Yemen. The main reason perhaps lies in the well-reported political instability in this country since 2011.
Yemen has gone into a stage of transformation since the Arab spring, where its longtime authoritarian president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, was forced to hand over power to President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, his deputy, in 2011. Hadi then had to juggle among various political and social problems, including attacks by al-Qaeda, the Houthi movement led my Shia Muslim minority, the continuing loyalty of many military officers to Saleh, as well as unemployment and food insecurity. The Iranian-backed Houthi movement was at one time joined by Saleh to fight together against Hadi, who was backed by Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly Sunni Arab states, together with support from the US, UK and France. However, the bondage proved quite fragile between Houthi militia and Saleh and there was soon a rift between these them. On December 2nd, 2017, Saleh appeared on television to show some kind intention towards Saudi Arabia, which, got himself assassinated by a Houthi rebel militia at his home in the capital, Sanaa.
War always imposes tremendous cost at civilians. According to BBC, the ongoing conflict left 20 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and created “the world’s largest food security emergency.” Only 45% of the 3,500 health facilities are fully functioning, who have struggled to cope with the world’s largest cholera outbreak, which has “resulted in more than 913,000 suspected cases and 2,196 deaths since April 2017.” 2 In addition to these humanitarian catastrophes, what happens in Yemen deeply worries the West. According to BBC, the most dangerous branch of al-Qaeda and the emergence of IS affiliates in Yemen is a serious concern.
Now looking back at President’s Trump decision on banning all people from Yemen, or on travel ban in general, is he right? It is certainly not right if we think humanitarianly. This banning of country residents is not unlike preventing Jewish refugees from coming to America after World War II for fear of Nazis. Just like people now lamented this decision that led to more Jews dying, will this decision in banning Yemen and other countries, let Americans or the world regret forty years later? Yet American history is never lack of these similar foreign policies and lack of institutional constraints against these policies. The active approval of travel ban from the supreme court is not surprising.
We, as an immigration law firm, value national security as much as upholding the American values — its tolerance and globalism. We also understand these two often come into conflict with each other. The current right-leaning administration chooses to prioritize the former by imposing a simple fix: banning the whole country to increase a sense of security. Yet, we hope we won’t forget the other important values that we also hold. There needs to be a check and balance on values as well.
2 All the statistical facts come from BBC news. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29319423
HMA Legal Intern