For over a decade, Ibrahem Almorisi contemplated a move from his home in Yemen to far-away America. But that would mean giving up the life that he had worked so hard to build—not just a bachelor’s degree in dentistry, a master’s degree in oral surgery and his own dental practice in Sana’a, but also a sense of familiarity and comfort for his wife and young children.
When the civil war in Yemen intensified in 2015, however, Almorisi recalls the Houthi rebels advancing their attacks and “destroying everything.” The father of five knew that the time had come. He sold all of his possessions and headed for the nearest United States embassy across the Red Sea in Djibouti.
It took the family six long months in Djibouti to finalize all of the necessary paperwork in what Almorisi considers the last leg of his 15-year American visa application process. Finally, in January, 2017, their journey began: from Djibouti to Ethiopia to Virginia to California and ultimately to the East Bay, where they were expected to reunite with relatives. But what should have been a day’s worth of traveling resulted in two excruciating weeks of canceled visas and living in airports.
That’s because on January 27, as the family neared Washington Dulles International Airport aboard an Ethiopian Airlines flight, President Donald Trump signed into action an executive order temporarily barring citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. Yemen was on the list.
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