Rally in Little Yemen for diversity visas

Councilman Mark Gjonaj speaks at the rally demanding the Yemeni people be granted the diversity visas.
Photos by Jason Cohen

While President Biden ended the Muslim ban in January, many who were granted diversity visas during the Trump presidency are being left out in the cold.

Biden stated in his recent proclamation that anyone whose diversity visa was approved between 2017 and 2020 must reapply.

This is leaving 2,000 Yemenis dreaming of coming to America stuck in the nation with the worst humanitarian crisis. This ruling affects many in Morris Park as within the neighborhood is Little Yemen, an area with a high Yemeni population and 500 Yemeni businesses.

Needless to say residents are angry and on March 24 held a rally led by the Yahay Obeid, the outreach coordinator for the Bronx Muslim Center.

“A promise was made by the United States of America,” he said. “That promise must be kept.”

Obeid told the Bronx Times that the State Department kept allowing Yemenis to apply for the diversity visas knowing the ban was in place. He explained that the visas would get processed and then at the last step denied.

Assemblywoman Nathalia Fernandez speaks at the rally demanding the Yemeni people be granted the diversity visas.

According to Obeid, people apply for years and when it’s finally granted many begin making plans for their new lives. Yet, these 2,000 people were tossed aside and now are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

“They were given hope that wasn’t really there and that’s not fair,” he stressed. “What’s fair is to give them their miracle back.”

Among those at the rally were elected officials Councilmen Mark Gjonaj and Fernando Cabrera, Community Board 11 Chair Al D’Angelo, Assemblywoman Nathalia Fernandez and Brooklyn Borough President and Mayoral Candidate Eric Adams.

Councilman Fernando Cabrera speaks at the rally demanding the Yemeni people be granted the diversity visas.

Fernandez exclaimed that this issue should not be happening. She stated that when President Biden lifted the Muslim ban everyone who had diversity visas approved during the Trump presidency should have been allowed to come here.

“Little Yemen is a part of the Bronx,” she shouted. “When you hurt, we hurt. When you are denied, I am denied. A promise was made and we demand it be kept.”

Gjonaj, who has been to the Bronx Muslim Center and called Obeid a brother, said he feels at home when he is with Yemeni people. Furthermore, the councilman said that not allowing people who were granted diversity visas to come to the USA is embarrassing.

Brooklyn Borough President and Mayoral Candidate Eric Adams speaks at the rally demanding the Yemeni people be granted the diversity visas.

The diversity visa was a “sham and an empty promise,” and the government must fix this now, he commented.

“I stand with this community because this community has stood with me,” Gjonaj said. “The Yemeni community has made our neighborhood stronger and better.”

CB 11 Chairman Al D’Angelo speaks at the rally demanding the Yemeni people be granted the diversity visas.

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