Rights groups expect an unprecedented number of families to be separated and warn of a rise in attacks against Muslims, writes Ola Salem.
Washington, DC – American-Muslims have decried a US Supreme Court ruling that upheld a controversial travel ban on five Muslim-majority countries, expressing anger and fear over what it will mean for them and their families.
Dozens of people gathered outside the court building on Tuesday, holding banners and shouting slogans such as “No ban, no wall” to protest against the decision on a policy Donald Trump has fought for since his first week in office in January 2017.
The ban prevents entry into the US by most people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.
“I’m very disappointed; I did not expect this,” Arwa al-Iryani, an American of Yemeni origin living in Connecticut, told Al Jazeera.
She said her in-laws would no longer be able to visit her and their granddaughter.
“They used to come twice a year, during summer and Christmas,” she said. “Now the whole family is split”.
At home, citizens from the mostly Muslim countries, including those who were in the process of migrating to the US, also expressed devastation at the ruling.
Nasser Farpour, a resident of Iran’s capital, Tehran, said he first applied for a visa to travel to the US in 2003.
He said he spent “thousands of dollars” in the hope of seeing his sister, nieces and nephews in the US, and for a chance to provide his “children with a better education”.
“We spent so much money and time,” he told Al Jazeera. “We went to Turkey and stayed for a week and completed our medical screenings in addition to all of our security screenings. The day we were supposed to get our visas, the travel ban was issued,” referring to Trump’s executive order last year.
“We have been waiting for more than 15 years. Why would they do this to us after all this time?”
Fapour’s niece in the US, Yasmine Taeb, a lawyer working at the Center for Victims of Torture, said countless of other families would be affected by the ruling.
“The ruling has a real human cost,” she said. “This is what the American people need to understand; this is discriminatory, this is unacceptable.”
Following the court’s decision, advocacy and rights groups said the country would see an unprecedented number of families separated and warned of an increase in attacks against Muslims.
Taeb said the travel ban, which comes at the backdrop of the “zero-tolerance policy” at the US border that has seen more than 2,000 children taken away from their families, was a policy centred on “advancing a white nationalist agenda”.
Even so, Taeb, as well as other legal analysts, said the ruling was expected due to the body of the Supreme Court which holds a conservative majority.
Jessica Levinson, a law professor and a political commentator, agreed. She said the ruling took into account Trump’s executive authority as president, irrespective of “candidate Trump”, who called for a complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the country.
The Supreme Court’s ruling could also embolden the president to carry out further border and immigration restrictions, analysts said.
“The decision suggests that Trump has broad leeway to do as he sees fit as long as he points to a national security justification,” said Nancy Leong, a law professor at the University of Denver, said.
In a statement from the White House, the president said he would continue to “fight for an immigration system that serves the national interests of the United States and its citizens”.
Since Trump took office, reports of crimes against Muslims in the country saw a greater spike to that following the September 11, 2001 attacks, said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman of Council on American-Islamic Relations.
“I think not only will the ruling increase Islamophobia, it is an expression of Islamophobia,” Hooper said at the rally outside the Supreme Court.
“This is a culmination of years of Islamophobia exploited by candidate Trump and now President Trump.”
But even before Tuesday’s ruling, many had reported difficulty obtaining a visa to travel to the US following Trump’s election.
“Everyone who has applied from my family has been rejected,” said al-Iryani.
“I don’t understand this since there have not been any terror attacks by a Yemen national. I don’t understand what the ban is based on.” –Al Jazeera.