Trump Travel Ban: Yemeni Parents Caught A year ago Wednesday, the Supreme Court upheld the Trump administration's travel ban on several majority-Muslim countries. It has had life-altering implications for many families.
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'They Took My Heart With Them': Yemeni Parents Stranded By Trump's Travel Ban

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'They Took My Heart With Them': Yemeni Parents Stranded By Trump's Travel Ban

'They Took My Heart With Them': Yemeni Parents Stranded By Trump's Travel Ban

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

President Trump's travel ban is one year old. It's been one year since the Supreme Court upheld the third revised version of it. This started as the president's campaign proposal for a, quote, "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the country." The plan then narrowed and narrowed until the president found something the courts would uphold. It has affected many families, like those who spoke with NPR's Leila Fadel.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: In Detroit, 6-year-old Albukhari Mohsin pushes a toy across the floor of his uncle's living room. His sister Sara, 12, sits on the couch with their two brothers. Ahmed is 8 and Muslim is just 3 years old. They're in the United States parentless because of the travel ban. Their mom and dad are stranded in the African nation of Djibouti. Muslim the 3-year-old knows just a few English words - yes, no and...

MUSLIM: My mom. My dad.

FADEL: The children's father, Mohamed Mohsin, is a Yemeni-American. He was in the final stages of bringing his family to the United States when President Trump started blocking travel from several majority Muslim countries. Today, Yemen is on the list of countries in the version of the ban that was upheld by the Supreme Court. While Mohamed's wife and children's visas had already been approved before the ban became law, the embassy in Djibouti only issued visas to the children, not to his wife.

So before the kids' visas expired, their father sent them to the United States. He stayed behind because he says he couldn't leave his distraught wife stranded in a foreign country while she waited for a visa that might never come. Twelve-year-old Sara is now the de facto mom to her youngest brother, Muslim.

SARA: In the night, all the time he's crying.

FADEL: She comforts him in the twin bed they share at their uncle's house. Every time Muslim sees a plane in the sky, he yells, it's mama. She tells him her parents will be with them soon.

What do your mom and dad say about coming? When are they going to come?

SARA: After two week. After two week. After two week.

FADEL: It's been over a year. Sara's father, Mohamed, became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2009 and applied for his family to join him after the devastating Saudi-led war in Yemen began in 2015. I reached him by phone in Djibouti.

MOHAMED MOHSIN: The crazy things make my heart, you know, just broken.

FADEL: He was a truck driver in Michigan and planned to be in Djibouti just a couple weeks to get his family and return home. That was in 2017. In Michigan, no one relative had enough room for all the kids, so they're living in three different houses.

MOHSIN: Kids want Mom and Dad. You know, I have to be strong to get my family. If I get weak, you know, I'm not strong, I'm going to be destroying my family. Believe me.

FADEL: The travel ban says that a family like this could be eligible for a visa waiver, but there's no separate way to apply. The State Department has said applicants are automatically considered, but only 5.1% of visa waivers were approved between December 2017 and March of this year. All of this time, Mohamed has been out of work.

MOHSIN: I sell my car. I sell my house. I get - you know, after five, six months, people hate me. My family hate me.

FADEL: They hate him, Mohamed says, because he's a burden. He had to borrow $70,000 to support his kids and pay rent and living expenses in Djibouti. Back in Michigan, the kids gather around a cellphone with their dad on speaker.

MUSLIM: Baba.

SARA: (Foreign language spoken).

MOHSIN: (Foreign language spoken).

FADEL: They chat and then his oldest daughter, Sara, asks if there's any news. Mohamed tells her everything will be fine, God willing. Later, Sara says she misses them. She went to her fifth grade graduation recently with her uncle and baby brother.

SARA: (Foreign language spoken).

FADEL: She says, as soon as I got my diploma, I told my uncle, I want to go home. All the other children had moms and dads.

Leila Fadel, NPR News.

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