At Brides, we believe it is important to talk about both the wonderful and difficult aspects that come with marriage in the United States. In a new series, we explore the ways in which President Donald Trump’s temporary travel ban affects our notions of family. From issues with parents attending weddings to the impact on childbirth, here we’ll talk about real lives being affected by the executive order.
This week marks the halfway mark for President Trump's travel ban. Throughout this series, we’ve been looking at the practical effects of the ban: the way that it affects planning a wedding, how it can disrupt lives, redefine families, and keep loved ones apart. But the human cost, the way people themselves are affected, is at its core. And perhaps the most heartbreaking example of this: couples who were caught up in it, separated by the ban, not sure how—and if—they would be able to see each other again. It sounds extreme (almost like a plot line in a romantic drama) but when the ban was put into place, that’s exactly the position that many found themselves in.
One of the most striking examples of this is Roozbeh Aliabadi, a former consultant and new PhD student in international relations, whose tweet went viral when he found he was stuck on the other side of the world from his wife. Though they had been married and her application for residency was approved in January, the ban left them separated. “We wanted to start our life together. She’s an architect, I was in consulting business, soon-to-be PhD student. We can’t do it,” Aliabadi told ThinkProgress. “I haven’t seen my wife for about seven months, and this, in a way, gives us two options. Number 1: I have to move out of the U.S. Or we have to get divorced. I don’t think the latter is an option.”
The couple isn’t alone. There are stories like Khaled Almilaji’s, who was refused re-entry to the U.S. and was stuck in Turkey, separated from his pregnant wife for six months. Or Mariwan Hama, who had to watch his son’s birth via FaceTime from half a world away. "I cried. I felt happy because Arrow and Diamond were safe and healthy,” he told Refinery29. “And I was sad because I wasn't there to hold them. I need them and I know they need me too.” There are countless stories, all shocking and tragic in their own right. As the ban becomes more comprehensive, some of the chaos is settling—but only some. Many are still left unsure and confused about where they stand; more still are reforming their lives if they are lucky enough to have been reunited.
And while it’s tempting to focus on "the love conquers all" angle of these stories, it’s important not to gloss over the amount of pressure and strain that these separations put on a relationship. Long distance is hard, but being trapped in a long-distance relationship because you’re not allowed to enter into the same country as the person you love is even harder. There are feelings of judgement, rejection, resentment, and anger. Plus, there’s the financial stress—tough in any relationship, but multiplied when you’re dealing with mounting visa and lawyer's fees. The red tape and confusing forms are always a quagmire, but trying to navigate these with a travel ban that keeps mutating is even more difficult—aka stress and uncertainty, all the time.
And all of this with the added difficulty of being separated from the person you love—from your partner and maybe even from your children. Imagine watching your son’s first moments on FaceTime, before hanging up the phone in a room thousands of miles away.
The ban has wreaked havoc, from its first announcement to its court challenges to its reinstatement. And while this series has looked at how it’s disrupted lives, changed plans, and created labyrinths of red tape and practical issues, the emotional strain constitutes the most visceral damage. It’s forced people to be separated from those they love, saying that they don’t "count" as family. It’s meant choosing between your sister being at your wedding or your fiancé’s parents being there. It’s drained time, money, and energy. But more than that, there's the shock, the panic, the confusion, the exasperation—and the anger. Because no matter how much President Trump and his administration can pretend that it’s about immigration numbers, about statistics, about theoretical threats, what it really comes down to is the people who have been uprooted by this ban. And it has a lot to answer for.