Trump travel ban: even U.S. citizens are at risk!
According to Reuters, Maziar Hashemi, a naturalized U.S. citizen who lives in Massachusetts, has been told by doctors that his best hope for surviving a rare form of blood cancer is a bone marrow transplant. Bone marrow transplants require a close match between donor and recipient. A few months after his diagnosis last September, Hashemi, 60, learned that his brother in Iran, Kamiar Hashemi, was a rare 100-percent match. The only problem was Kamiar’s nationality.
The latest travel ban, issued as a presidential proclamation and implemented on December 8 after months of legal wrangling, bars most travelers to the United States from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea, as well as certain government officials from Venezuela. The Trump administration has said travel restrictions are needed to protect the United States from terrorism.
Under the current proclamation, waivers can be granted in cases where denying entry would cause undue hardship, when the individual is found not to be a threat and when their entry is in the national interest. The proclamation lists ten examples of situations in which an applicant might be eligible for a waiver. One reason mentioned is an applicant’s need for urgent medical care, something that comes close but doesn’t exactly fit the Hashemis’ situation, since it isn’t Kamiar Hashemi, himself, in urgent need. Therefore, Kamiar Hashemi has been denied a visa at first.
Kamiar Hashemi looked into traveling to India to have his bone marrow harvested there and rushed to the United States, but that option was also thwarted. A non-profit organization trying to facilitate the transfer, Be The Match, said it had to pull out after its legal team concluded that Kamiar’s bone marrow couldn’t be exported to the United States because of U.S. sanctions on Iranian exports. “Can you imagine that the cells of an Iranian needed in order to help a U.S. citizen are embargoed?” said Maziar Hashemi.
Two days after Reuters first reported on the case, his lawyer said she was told on the call that a waiver had been granted.
Attorneys who regularly deal with visa issues say the waiver process is opaque. Visa applicants aren’t allowed to apply for waivers; they are simply granted or not without explanation. U.S. officials won’t say how they make their decisions or how long they generally take. Since the ban took effect, the State Department told more than 375 waivers have been approved, but declined to say for which countries and out of how many applications.
It’s unfortunate that so much effort had to go into getting just one, clearly urgent, visa approved. There are thousands of people are stuck, also with urgent cases, with no idea what is happening.