BAY RIDGE – Nearly three years since the Muslim Ban, another family has been reunited. It wouldn’t have been possible without Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez’s office or the Yemeni American Merchants Association (YAMA), neighbors said.
On the morning of Monday, October 28, Velázquez sat alongside the president of YAMA Abdul Mubarez, YAMA Board Secretary Dr. Debbie Almontaser, and the family impacted by the ban itself– the Alammari family.
“We are here to present a human face to the actions taken by this president,” Velázquez said. “When President Trump issued the Muslim Ban, immediately I showed up to JFK… We raised our voices to say that that is not who we are. That we are a nation that respects laws, that is compassionate, that is recognized for its kindness.”
Abdul Latif Alammari is a US citizen and lives in Brooklyn. His sister, his sister’s husband Khaled Kuzem, and their kids, who lived in Yemen, applied for the Diversity Lottery. They won the lottery and were selected for an interview in Djibouti.
“My family… then waited for further information,” Alammari said. “Due to Trump’s new regulation, it delayed everything.”
So, Alammari turned to the only place he knew could help– YAMA. He was then connected to Velázquez and her staff.
“They dedicated their hard work and helped expedite the process,” he said. “Before I knew it, [my family] was granted visas. I’m just saying, if it wasn’t for their help and support, [my family] wouldn’t be here today.”
Kuzem came to the US with his wife and two kids ages 16 and 21. Two of his other kids are still in Yemen, and YAMA and the Congresswoman’s office will be working to expedite their process as well.
“I will reject the type of policies of this administration that doesn’t recognize that our own decisions and involvement in Yemen have produced a humanitarian crisis,” Velázquez said. “I’m here to say that we will continue to fight to welcome refugees into our nation… The day will come when we will return to the norms and the values that have defined America as a beacon of hope.”
YAMA has been at the forefront working to get as many families impacted by the Muslim Ban reunited. The community-based organization works with congressional leaders to make that a reality. In August, Congressman Max Rose visited the YAMA office with the family he worked to reunite.
“These are the kind of Congresspeople we need in this country instead of the spineless cowards that bow to the devil in the White House,” Naji Almontaser, a YAMA board member said.
Dr. Debbie Almontaser called this morning’s gathering at the YAMA office a “celebratory moment.” The Muslim Ban affects seven countries including Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia (which are Muslim majority) and North Korea and Venezuela. In September, the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs subcommittees held a hearing on the Muslim Ban. It was the first one before Congress since the Ban was implemented. During the hearing, a US State Department official noted that the Trump administration fielded about 72,000 visa applications from the citizens of the five Muslim majority countries in the Ban, the Washington Post reported.
“The Muslim Ban is the worst thing. It was so sad [hearing about it], especially for us,” Alammari said. “It’s so sad knowing people are separated.”
Kuzem told Bklyner that he feels comfortable and happy to be in Brooklyn. “It’s the perfect area to live in,” he said. What does America mean to him?
“America means more oppertunity, peace, freedom, freedom of speech, freedom to do things and freedom to dream.”