February 2, 2018 marks the one-year anniversary of the Yemeni Bodega strike – a citywide response to Muslim Ban 1.0, which abruptly banned visitors and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority nations: Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. The ban also halted admission of refugees from all seven countries for 120 days, and the admission of Syrian refugees indefinitely. The Arab-American Family Support Center serves anyone who walks through our doors, and over our nearly 25 years of experience, we have developed expertise in serving the Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian communities of New York City. At our Downtown Brooklyn office, many of the clients we see are from the local Yemeni community. The Muslim Ban 1.0, and the additional bans that followed, wreaked havoc in our communities. The effects of the Muslim Ban 1.0 are still felt today, with families who were separated in the crisis still working to reunite.
The Muslim Ban – January 27, 2017
The ban was put into effect so quickly that thousands of people from the seven banned nations – including immigrants with green cards and visas – found themselves stranded in airports nationwide unable to pass through immigration and enter the country, and others were prevented from boarding U.S.-bound flights from the banned countries.
Thousands of people flooded the airports to protest the decision, and lawyers, including AAFSC’s attorney set up in lounges and lobbies, offering free legal assistance to those stuck in limbo at John F. Kennedy airport. ”
On January 28th, federal judge Ann Donnelly of New York granted a stay requested by the ACLU to prevent passengers from being detained and deported, stating that “There is imminent danger that, absent the stay of removal, there will be substantial and irreparable injury to refugees, visa-holders, and other individuals from nations subject to the January 27, 2017, Executive Order.” Closely following was a restraining order from United States District Court Judge Allison Bourroughs, which stated that legally-arrived immigrants from the seven affected countries could not be “detained or removed” by the government.
The Yemeni Bodega Strike – February 2, 2017
Bodegas, the small, family-owned grocery stores that dot the corners of the five boroughs are an integral part of New York City. Yemeni families own thousands of these corner stores, and on February 2nd, 2017, at least 1,000 Yemeni store owners closed in protest from 12 to 8 p.m. Most posted signs on their locked doors, explaining the closure – some said that their families were stuck at JFK and LaGuardia, others simply that they opposed the ban and wanted to stand in solidarity with their community members who were affected. Owners and their supporters gathered at Brooklyn Borough Hall to protest, just a few blocks from the our Brooklyn headquarters. Many of AAFSC’s staff and community members of all ages attended the protest together.
— Widad (@WidadIndie) February 6, 2017
— Working Class Gotham (@wkclassgotham) February 3, 2017
Bodega owner Nader Muharram told VICE’s Muchies “Everybody I spoke to was happy to shut down their businesses and we had no problem with customers…We lost money, but our customers were very supportive and told us we should go to the protest. We lost money but we regained our rights. We have a right to protest and have our voices heard. If we have to loose money to show others that we are human beings, no problem.”
— Arab-American Family Support Center (@AAFSC) February 2, 2017
On February 3rd, one day after the Yemeni protest, Seattle Judge James Robart froze the ban. The administration pushed the case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where judges agreed that the ban did not advance U.S. national security and upheld the freeze.
The Yemeni Bodega strike lead to the formation of the Yemeni-American Merchants Association (YAMA), an organization formed by some of the organizers of the strike and the Borough Hall protest. YAMA seek to educate and empower the Yemeni-American community and shop owners. You can follow YAMA on Twitter @YAMAMerchants.
Trump’s Muslim Ban has now moved through three unsuccessful iterations. The second, Muslim Ban 2.0, was swiftly overturned by judges in Maryland and Hawaii. In September 2017 the third iteration of the ban was revealed, barring citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad, North Korea, and some Venezuelans from entering the U.S.. A Hawaiian judge blocked the ban just before it would have taken effect, and no action has been taken since then. The Supreme Court agreed in the summer of 2017 that it would hear arguments on the ban in October 2018.