Fair Treatment of Yemeni Immigrants to the United States
Fair Treatment of Yemeni Immigrants to the United States
Despite the repeal of the Muslim Ban, Yemeni people still face more hurdles in the United States immigration proceedings than those from other countries.
Due to the war in Yemen, the US embassy is closed, and there are no United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approved DNA testing labs within the country. Because of this, families are constantly forced to risk the dangerous journey to another country amid a brutal war to get their DNA tested. Yemen is an emerging nation with even more impoverished people; many do not have the means, knowledge, or money to make these trips- especially not twice. They are currently forced to make this trip for DNA testing and then again for their visa interview. We understand the need for DNA testing, and we are not asking USCIS to cut this process entirely. We are only asking that USCIS make the DNA testing available to them at their interview time. For some cases, the Consular has recommended DNA testing at the time of the interview. This way, families do not have to make two trips through a battlefield and are not spending so much money unnecessarily. With DNA testing available at the time of interviews, families would be exposed to less danger. They would not face such heavy financial burdens, and proceedings could go faster than they are currently going. At the current time, some wait potentially a whole year before even being informed of their need to get tested. They spend even more time waiting to accumulate the money and waiting until it becomes slightly safer to make the dangerous journey again. With the testing being made available to them at the time of the interview, two required tasks are completed at relatively the same time. The process would be heavily expedited, and there is less of a hassle for those on both sides. This is a win-win situation.
Translators usually do translations in one-on-one interviews USCIS contracts or perhaps employ. While we understand and trust that USCIS translators are well educated and well versed in both the formal Arabic language and its dialects, we are confident in saying they may not be fully equipped to deal with the speech and dialect of those coming from villages within Yemen. Many here, especially women, are equipped with little to no understanding of the English language. Therefore, they are heavily reliant on translators within meetings to both understand and communicate with immigration officers. Yemen's people have developed their very own dialect that is relatively unknown and certainly has not been studied in universities; many people here did not even know of Yemen’s existence until its humanitarian crisis was recently popularized in the media. No matter the extensive education received by the contracted translators, they will not be able to convey information to these people in a way that is understandable to them. As a result, Yemenis are significantly stunted when it comes to conversing with other Arab speakers who may be familiar though cannot speak the Yemeni dialect- let alone translators who have yet to come into contact with it altogether.
Another issue many Yemeni immigrants come across when dealing with immigration is the registration requirements. Most people in Yemen come from small villages where nothing is registered; in fact, many are not even aware of the construct of registration altogether. This is especially prevalent in poor and uneducated parts of the community. As a result, births are not registered until children are old enough to go into the city (which does not happen unless they are prompted to do so as the trip is extremely dangerous). Poor people are unproportionally impacted by these birth registration regulations set upon them by the US.
Regarding marriage registration, the people abide by Islamic law, which renders registration in the government's eyes unnecessary. Though they have contracts drawn up at the time of their marriage, their marriage does not become registered in the eyes of the government until they are requested to do so or until they become aware it is necessary, which in some cases has been more than 10 years after their actual marriage date. The Yemeni community sees a lot of cases being denied because these social norms are not being accounted for/observed. Instead, petitioners are expected to abide by rules and regulations that they had no knowledge existed until now; their births and marriages are being rendered void simply because the importance and commonality of registration are not held to the same standard in Yemen it is here. Petitioners constantly file motions to reopen these cases, and often, the initial decisions end up being overturned. These motions cause unnecessary time wasted. All we ask regarding this issue is that immigration officers consider that things in Yemen are not as they are here. People do not get registered in the government's eyes as alive or married until years after the fact; this does not indicate any malicious intent or fraudulent desires but is somewhat reflective of a different society with different priorities and religious rituals that are abided by. The Yemeni community asks that immigration be made aware of this and perhaps more understanding of this in the future.
Additional, when an applicant receives a request for evidence (RFE), they are encouraged to send the following documents: Property deeds showing both names as co-owners; Documents from government entitlement programs showing both names; Insurance plans showing each other as co-beneficiaries; Statements from the bank account in both names and/or an assortment of photographs with the beneficiary spanning your entire relationship (courtship and post-marital). In Yemeni culture, women are not given the same power as men. It is a sad fact, but one nonetheless. Therefore, there are not in existence things like shared bank accounts or property deeds or anything else that requires their name be put down in conjunction with their husband’s. Everything will be in solely the husband’s name as in Yemen; the husband is expected to be the sole provider.
There is also a high rate of arranged marriages; there is not necessarily a “courtship” phase to be documented with photos, at least not in the way it exists here. All we ask regarding this is that immigration is aware of these facts when reviewing applications. We believe this knowledge, when provided to immigration officers, will allow them to be more knowledgeable and understanding of the applications (and their entailments) that they receive.
We would like to see USCIS ease the suffering of many divided families. These suggested changes and adjustments can inspire new hope for Yemeni immigrants, make the immigration proceedings more streamlined, and show an understanding of another culture.