Living in Trump’s America

Imagine being forced to leave your home, your community, your friends, a place where you feel safe and relocated in a country in turmoil where you are a complete stranger.
Saturday 07/09/2019
Ismail Ajjawi, a Harvard freshman who said he was was denied US entry because of his friends’ social media postings, at his home near the El Buss refugee camp in Lebanon. (UNRWA)
Hoping against hope. Ismail Ajjawi, a Harvard freshman who said he was was denied US entry because of his friends’ social media postings, at his home near the El Buss refugee camp in Lebanon. (UNRWA)

Two incidents concerning the treatment of Arabs in Donald Trump’s United States, a country that this president is trying to turn into the opposite of what it was meant to be by the founding fathers.

The incidents are unrelated except that they both have to do with Arabs and the way they are treated in the United States under Trump’s directives on immigration.

The first case concerns Jimmy Aldaoud, a 41-year-old native of Iraq who was taken to the United States as an infant and lived in the Detroit area since then.

This is a sad story but, then, all refugee stories are sad. Each is a tragedy. No one leaves a place they love unless they are forced to.

Regrettably, there are many reasons that push someone to emigrate. People leave their country of birth for political reasons. They may be in danger of arrest and often arrest means torture and death. People move for economic reasons; they cannot find work in their home country.

Aldaoud had no say in leaving his home in Iraq. He was an infant at the time.

Despite that he had lived in the United States nearly his entire life, Aldaoud found his name on a deportation list along with hundreds of Iraqi nationals. He was sent to Iraq in June.

There are numerous cases like Aldaoud’s. What makes this one different is that Aldaoud died in Baghdad and his death may give him the final word in this matter.

His body was being returned to the United States for burial. The costs of flying the body to the United States and the funeral are being paid for by the Chaldean Community Foundation.

The Chaldeans are Iraqi Christians, an important minority. The Chaldeans have been around since biblical days. Prayers in Chaldean churches are said in Chaldean, a language close to Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus.

US Representative Andy Levin, a Michigan Democrat, said Aldaoud had diabetes and suffered from schizophrenia and other mental health issues. He spoke no Arabic and had no family ties in Iraq.

Imagine being forced to leave your home, your community, your friends, a place where you feel safe and relocated in a country in turmoil where you are a complete stranger, where you have no family nor friends

The second case concerns Ismail B. Ajjawi, a 17-year-old Lebanese man who was moving to the United States to study at Harvard University. He faces negotiations with immigration officers to allow him to enter the United States after he was booted back to Lebanon. The reason immigration officers refused him entry to the United States? His friends have anti-American posts on their social media outlets.

Ajjawi arrived at Boston Logan International Airport on August 27 and spent eight hours there before immigration officials sent him packing, a statement he released to the Harvard Crimson newspaper said.

Immigration officers reportedly questioned him about his religious practices and asked him to unlock his phone and laptop for a search. Ajjawi said the officers wanted to know about his online friends and their posts.

Ajjawi, who is Palestinian and lives in Lebanon, insisted he’d never made any political posts and shouldn’t be penalised for his friends’ actions.

The US State Department confirmed that US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) found Ajjawi “inadmissible to the country based on information discovered during the CBP inspection.”

A statement by the CBP said “applicants must demonstrate they are admissible into the United States by overcoming ALL grounds of inadmissibility.”

A CBP spokeswoman told the Washington Post that applicants for admission to the United States are subject to complete inspections upon arrival and that no one can enter until the examining officer is fully satisfied.

The applicant bears the burden of proof for admission into the country, said the spokeswoman.

“The university is working closely with the student’s family and appropriate authorities to resolve this matter so that he can join his classmates in the coming days,” said Harvard spokesman Jonathan Swain.

Two Harvard students and two scholars were barred from entry in January 2017 when the Trump administration enacted a travel ban on seven majority-Muslim nations, Swain said.

Ajjawi was eventually allowed to enter the United States in time for the first day of classes at Harvard, September 3.

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