New York, US – Rama Issa, a Syrian American, was supposed to get married this autumn in New York City.
It was supposed to be a happy occasion but Issa, who has been living in the United States since 2011, had to postpone the event after the Supreme Court reinstated parts of President Donald Trump’s ban on travellers from six Muslim-majority countries earlier this week.
That meant some of Issa’s family members due to join her from abroad would not be able to do so.
“It’s so stressful to be a bride and organise your wedding and then find out you can’t even invite your family,” Issa told Al Jazeera outside New York’s JFK International Airport Terminal 4, where flights from several Middle Eastern countries operate from.
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“I don’t want the government to tell me who is supposed to be part of my family and who is not.”
Issa was at the airport to assist other travellers who get mixed up in Trump’s temporary ban against travellers from Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.
Her case highlights a problem raised by the Supreme Court’s ruling which allowed Trump’s executive order to take effect but narrowed its scope, exempting travellers and refugees with a “bona fide relationship” with a person or entity in the US.
On Wednesday, the State Department said visa applicants from the six nations must have a close US family relationship or formal ties to an American entity in order to be admitted to the country.
State Department guidance on the ban defined a close relationship as being a parent, spouse, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law or sibling, including step-siblings, and other step-family relations.
“Grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, fiances, and any other ‘extended’ family members” are not considered close family, according to the cable.
For Issa, this means her father in Syria’s capital, Damascus, can apply for a visa but her aunts and uncles, who endure the same daily hardships in Syria’s long-running civil war, are not able to.
A close cousin, who was tortured by the Syrian government’s security forces and is now a refugee in Austria, would not be able to celebrate her big day in the US, according to Issa. Neither would another cousin in Lebanon.
The court allowed the ban to go into effect until it can take up the case during its next term starting in October.