As President Donald Trump battles to reinstate his controversial revised travel ban, one overlooked effect has been the havoc wreaked on legal Americans with family abroad.
Across the United States, citizens not directly targeted by plans to halt entries from six majority-Muslim nations are nevertheless finding their lives disrupted and families torn apart.
Iranian-American Madhis Keshavarz, whose father died on February 16 with relatives unable to visit him in his US hospital bed, is one such victim of the uncertainty. “They stole from my father the chance to say goodbye to the ones he loved the most,” the Los Angeles resident said, tears rolling down her cheeks.
In the confusion over the initial executive order, Keshavarz’s uncle, a German citizen who has visited the US some 30 times, found himself unable to get a visa to attend his brother’s death bed, despite having his papers in order.
“My father was an organ donor. Some American is now walking around breathing because of him, and he was denied the basic right to say goodbye to the ones he loved the most,” said Keshavarz, a media strategist.
One of her close friends, a Briton who has dual Iranian nationality but has not been there in more than a decade, encountered similar problems when she decided to come to the US to support her grieving friend.
As a British national she didn’t need a visa but sought advice anyway from US consular officials in London. “They said to her you need a visa. They took her British passport and kept it to review it. She had to wait to get her passport back, so missed her flight,” Keshavarz said.
Other members of her family have also seen their lives disrupted. “My young cousin who is engaged to be married hasn’t been able to see his fiancée since the end of last year,” Keshavarz said. “She’s been waiting for a visa to come and it’s on hold. Her status has been floating with no indication of it changing, despite a number of calls to all sorts of people, so all the planning of the wedding is suspended.”
She acknowledges that some of this bureaucracy already existed under the previous administration but adds that at least people knew the procedure, whereas “now embassies have no idea.”
“I’ve always had tonnes and tonnes of problems. We never had it easy, even before Trump,” said Madhi Rahimi, 31, who works in a Silicon Valley IT research company. “It was always difficult to get the visas. That one time I went home it took me four months to come back to the US.”