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How Trump's Travel Ban Has Affected 1 Yemeni-American Activist And Her Family


Well, let me turn now to Debbie Almontaser. She's a Yemeni-American activist in New York City. She has family in Yemen, one of the countries included in the travel ban. And she joins me now. Debbie, welcome.

DEBBIE ALMONTASER: Thank you for having me.

KELLY: I mentioned you have family in Yemen. Have you talked to them today about this decision? Do they know about it?

ALMONTASER: Of course. Everyone across the, you know, world knows about this shameful decision. I have talked to family members who are here who, you know, have direct family members - my nieces, my nephews - who are just absolutely devastated. And the - their biggest question to me this morning through text messaging and WhatsApp and calls is, what does this mean? You know, will my wife never come? Will my daughter and my son never join me here?

KELLY: What have you been replying to all these incoming messages?

ALMONTASER: My reply has been to each and every one of them - is, yes, the decision has come down. We are still looking at it thoroughly. The lawyers, the greatest minds in the United States are looking at this right now, and we are going to come up with answers. And we will continue to fight. Whether we are able to make this happen in the immediate time or in long term, we will continue to do our best to make sure that justice prevails and that you and your wife or you and your children will actually be able to reunite in the United States.

KELLY: I know it's early hours yet, but how does the fight continue? I mean, this was the Supreme Court. It's ruled.

ALMONTASER: It has definitely ruled. But we have seen time and time again historically - you know, an example of that is, you know, the Korematsu case, the Dred Scott case - you know, in history where these rulings were not the greatest, but we were able to overcome them.

KELLY: What has been the reaction in your community in New York? I should mention you're one of the founders of the Yemeni American Merchants Association in New York, which has played a role in protesting and pushing back against the travel ban.

ALMONTASER: People are distraught. People are frightened. People are just in total disbelief and just simply asking, what does this mean? Does this mean that they're - you know, they're going to make us leave this country - has also become one of the top questions. What does this mean even though that we are, you know, American citizens? What does this mean? And I have to tell you; it's been really, really hard.

You know, for me personally, when I first heard this morning of the decision, I felt like someone punched me in the stomach. You know, I just - I could not believe it. I just at that moment had a rush of, you know, emotions of betrayal, you know, as Yemeni-American whose family has worked so hard to build this country. I have, you know, nephews who are U.S. Marines. I have nephews and cousins who are, you know, in law enforcement in the NYPD. You know, my family also has a strong line of educators working in public education. So for us as civil servants, you know, to see this is absolutely devastating.

KELLY: You're describing a ruling from the Supreme Court today designed to settle what has been a hugely divisive debate. It sounds like from where you sit, it has done anything but.

ALMONTASER: Absolutely - unfortunate and shameful. But I have faith. I have faith in the people of this great land where we will together prevail and make sure that all communities regardless of their ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds will be able to live in this country with respect and dignity.

KELLY: Debbie Almontaser - she's a Yemeni-American activist, one of the founders of the Yemeni American Merchants Association of New York City. Dr. Almontaser, thanks very much.

ALMONTASER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.