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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Aftermath of Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’

Trump's immigration ban left refugee families in limbo, causing a backlog of cases delaying family reunification.

The aftermath of former President Donald Trump’s 2017 ban on immigration from Muslim-majority countries continues to have far-reaching consequences, especially concerning family reunification cases for refugees. Although President Joe Biden ended the ban in 2021, additional vetting requirements and bureaucratic delays persist, leaving thousands of families in Minnesota and beyond in limbo.

Fallout of Trump’s Immigration Ban

The 2017 immigration ban implemented by former President Donald Trump added layers of complexity and time to the security vetting and background checks for refugees and immigrants seeking family reunification in the United States. The extended timeline, coupled with additional processing requirements, significantly impacted the lives of those who were separated from their loved ones.

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Mounting Backlog of Cases

As a result of the 2017 ban and the subsequent delays caused by COVID-19-related embassy closures and world conflicts, there are currently around 20,000 refugee family reunification applications pending initial approval. Furthermore, more than 25,000 cases are awaiting interviews and further processing at U.S. embassies abroad. The Minnesota Council of Churches, among other agencies, is handling hundreds of pending family reunification cases, with some dating back to 2011.

Struggle for Refugee Families

Family reunification is a vital support system built into the U.S. immigration system to help refugees succeed after their arrival. However, the extended processing times have resulted in prolonged family separations, making it difficult for refugees to thrive without their loved ones by their side. For many, the hope of being reunited with family members has dwindled, and some have faced repeated application denials due to the stringent requirements.

Challenge of Providing Detailed Information

Trump’s ban required immigrants to provide a decade’s worth of address and phone number information, which posed a significant challenge, especially for those who had experienced precarious housing situations. The reprocessing of applications and security checks further contributed to the backlog, as security agencies were not adequately prepared for the sudden surge of data.

USCIS’s Efforts to Address the Backlog

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has recognized the urgency of resolving the backlog and established goals in 2022 to expedite the processing of I-730 cases, used to sponsor spouses and children, with the aim of reducing the wait time to six months. To achieve this, USCIS plans to enhance capacity, improve technology, and expand staffing by the end of September 2023.

Role of Resettlement Agencies

Resettlement agencies, such as the Minnesota Council of Churches, primarily focus on providing services to refugees who have already arrived in the United States. Due to capacity limitations, their ability to assist with filing family reunification petitions is limited, even though they recognize the importance of reuniting families.

Glimpse of Hope

Despite the challenges, some cases have made progress. Rabi Mohamed, who endured a seven-year delay in his family reunification case, received initial approval for his I-730 petition after filing a lawsuit against USCIS. However, even with this approval, it may still take several months before his family joins him in Minnesota.

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The backlog of family reunification cases resulting from Trump’s immigration ban continues to impact refugees’ lives, leaving them in a state of uncertainty and longing for the day they can be reunited with their loved ones. While USCIS is making efforts to address the backlog, it remains crucial to ensure efficient and compassionate processing for these deserving families, allowing them to rebuild their lives together in the United States.