“The mission of the United States Embassy is to advance the interests of the United States, and to serve and protect U.S. citizens.”
On July 18th I was scheduled to go to San Francisco to be a poet mentor on Brave New Voices but my waiver was declined. I have sat beside my laptop wondering which angle to take this blog in. There is a frustration inside of me, not wanting to write out of anger... but with solutions.
So from all the experience I have had in giving feedback positively, being professional and getting my message across clearly here are a few things I’d love to discuss with the US Embassy.
1. What about me, made me a threat to you?
When I was going through my visa application, (my waiver was declined because I went to Yemen in 2012… another argument for another bullet point) and when you asked me to submit my website links & social media - what made you think that I would build this whole career as a facade because I care about destroying you so much? I would love to know. I would also still like an explanation about why Yemen is on the ‘banned’ countries - is it because you are aware people know you want it more than it wants you?
2. Why is your visa process so robotic and why after 10 attempts (of 4 different contact numbers) did I receive a response of “we cannot discuss visas over the phone”. Not only was my waiver valid, not only did I decide to be ‘extra sensible’ by reapplying with updated information after the Trump-Law-Yemen-Ban but you have not given me a reason or explanation as to why my waiver was declined and which visa I should go for. Am I a tourist? Am I on a cultural exchange or visitor exchange? ...What is the difference? I have tried to contact through Twitter. Ignored. Instagram. Ignored. Email. Ignored. Phone. Shut down.
3. Trump implementing the travel ban for people who have traveled to Yemen, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Iran and Libya after 2011 was the most staged thing to happen since David Cameron resigned after Brexit.
Despite courts not finding evidence for ‘security issues’ it has still happened. Well apparently, if I have a ‘bonafide’ relationship I could still enter the US - and by bonafide they mean; parents, step children and children - not cousins or grandparents. This law feels like it passed with arguably no legitimate reasons (bar the fact that the said countries give nothing to the US and in fact the US want more from said countries *cough* oil *cough* coal). If the basis of your reasoning is Muslim terrorist attackers (but that’s a whoooole other blog) then why is the main Muslim country - Saudi Arabia - not on that ban list? Hmmm... well the tinterweb tells me that from the attacks on 11th September 2011, 15 of the 19 passenger jet hijackers were Saudi Citizens. Sorry, I forgot Saudi is chucking missiles into Syria, Somalia, Yemen like there’s no tomorrow. US want to be a teacher's pet in the hope that Saudi become ‘the strongest Sunni state in the Middle East’ and boom, US get oil.
On another point, according to an article in The Guardian, a Cato Institute study of terrorist attacks in the United States, over the 40 years from 1975–2015 concluded that nationals from the six countries in question – Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Syria, Iran and Sudan – were responsible for zero fatal attacks on US soil in that time period. Refugees from Syria and elsewhere likewise are not a threat at all, empirically speaking.
4. Going to San Francisco to be a poetry mentor for Brave New Voices with Brouhaha and Youth Speaks was an opportunity that won't happen again anytime soon. I have no idea why I was declined entry to the US. So I guess what I want are answers and if I don’t get them, I will continue to fight through words to get them. (If anyone knows any lawyers who would happily help please get in touch).
I told myself when I applied, instead of being sad if I got declined that I will take action.
This is not over. Always speak up and fight for what you believe, don’t be like my mother wanting a ‘peaceful life’.
Written by Amerah Saleh
Photograph by Ian Davies Photo
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