Rose calls for Yemeni travel ban to be lifted

Lawmaker meets Bay Ridge man whose wife he helped

BAY RIDGE — U.S. Rep. Max Rose came to Bay Ridge to meet a Yemeni man whose ailing wife gained entry to the United States with the lawmaker’s help so that she could receive life-saving medical treatments. While the meeting brought lots of smiles of relief, the lawmaker also used the occasion to speak out against a controversial Trump administration policy.

While meeting with Ahmed Almulaiki at the offices of the Yemeni American Merchants Association on Fifth Avenue Friday, August 16, Rose called on the Trump administration to lift a travel ban that prohibits people from Yemen from coming to the U.S.

Yemen is currently engulfed in a bloody civil war that “has produced one of the largest humanitarian catastrophes,” according to Rose, who added that people fleeing the bloodshed can’t obtain permission to come to the U.S., even if they have family here, because of the administration’s strict ban.

Rose called the ban “a hatred-filled policy.”

The travel ban, which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld in 2018, prohibits immigrants, even refugees, from entering the U.S. from seven countries: Yemen, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, North Korea and Venezuela.

Trump administration officials said the ban is necessary to preserve U.S. national security.

Almulaiki and his wife Ghania were caught up in that policy.

Ghania Almulaiki, who suffers from kidney failure, diabetes and high blood pressure, fled Yemen two and a half years ago and has lived in places like Djibouti and Egypt, far from her husband and family. She was prohibited from coming to the U.S. because she is originally from Yemen.

Her husband, who sold the supermarket he owned to devote himself to the effort to bring his wife here, went to the Yemeni American Merchants Association for help.

“We have clients that come to YAMA for immigration help. We have been able to reunite a couple of families,” said Dr. Debbie Almontaser, a member of the organization’s board of directors.

YAMA leaders worked with Rose to try and find a way to help the Almulaikis.

Rose discovered that the travel ban has a waiver process built into it for humanitarian purposes and decided to use that to seek a visa for Ghania Almulaiki.

But “the waiver process is so nebulous,” said Rose, a Democrat who represents Southwest Brooklyn and Staten Island. “The key we have found with the waiver is persistence and resilience. I am willing to get on the phone with individual consulates. We refuse to wait while people are suffering,” he said.

Rose also wrote a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Rose and YAMA obtained the visa and Ghania Almulaiki arrived in New York on Aug. 4.

She was in the hospital on Friday undergoing kidney treatments and did not get a chance to meet Rose. Her husband conveyed his thanks to the lawmaker. 

“This is a joyful moment,” Almulaiki said through a translator. “I thank Congressman Rose for doing what he did for me and my family in bringing my wife to join me in South Brooklyn.”

Rose said that while he was pleased to have played a role in reuniting the family, he believed it shouldn’t have been necessary.

“The Almulaiki family has gone through incredible pain, suffering and sacrifice due to policies that run counter to our national security,” said Rose, who serves as chairperson of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism. “The fact of the matter is, this isn’t a travel ban to help our national security. It’s a Muslim ban that is borne out of discriminatory policies that hurt families and neighbors in our community.”

Turning to Almulaiki, Rose told him, “You are not the other.”

Rose, who also called on the U.S. government to stop its support for the war in Yemen, noted that Bay Ridge has a large Yemeni-American community. “The war in Yemen is not something that is theoretical in this community,” he said.

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