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Last month, the Supreme Court upheld President Trump’s controversial decision to indefinitely restrict travel to the United States from several Muslim majority countries: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Syria, and in addition, North Korea and Venezuela. This is yet another attack on our freedom and basic human rights—an alarming trend that is spiking across the globe.
This isn’t just ink on paper, this travel ban has real consequences for families here in the U.S. and abroad. For example, my aunt who is still in Syria hasn’t been able to see her mom (my grandmother) in more than ten years. My aunt had applied for a U.S. tourist visa in 2012 and was told it would be provided in 2018. After almost six years of waiting, and living through war in Syria, her file was disregarded as if nothing had ever been filed.
Now my aunt has no way out of Syria (more specifically Damascus) and has to live through frequent bombardments and military checkpoints that terrorize her neighborhood. My aunt lives with the uncertainty of not knowing when she’ll reunite with my ill grandmother.
And like my family, there are countless other stories similar in nature.
One example is a Somali-American friend of mine who hasn’t seen his mother in 14 years. He became an American citizen in 2016, and soon after he applied for a tourist visa so that his mother could visit him in Chicago. I remember his excitement when he started the application process, only to be crushed just a year later thanks to President Trump’s travel ban. At the embassy in Nairobi, his mom received a pink slip stating that, due to the executive order, she was classified as a national security threat and therefore wouldn’t be allowed to travel.
Despite the ban, however, there are waivers that would have allowed people like my friend’s mom or even my aunt to travel. But the steps and qualifications are vague. After the recent decision by the Supreme Court to uphold President Trump’s travel ban, many lawyers, advocates, and Muslim citizens organized and submitted a lawsuit demanding documents from federal agencies related to the vague waiver system that has become their only avenue for relief — but as we see all too regularly, having our voices heard, exercising our right to speak up, falls upon deaf ears.
Limiting access to borders, to the internet, to freedoms and basic humans rights is something that regimes are using to suppress citizens. The current administration is limiting reuniting families in the name of national security. Many governments throughout the world, like in Syria, Egypt, and recently in Vietnam, restrict citizens from accessing data online in the name of national security. Governments throughout history have gone so far in the name of national security, and yet research proves that the limitations they implement generally do not directly affect the issues they claim they’re trying to fix.
This is the main reason why I believe private access to the internet is essential, and beyond that—freedom of speech in general, unchained from global censorship which is increasingly damaging the world we live in. Movement of humans, access of data, and privacy of internet access should be solely the choice of us, not governments.
As to your personal security online, I encourage you to stay protected and use Hotspot Shield. And as to the current travel ban, speaking up, using the court system, and reaching out to your representatives is essential in getting your voice heard.