Why is Sudan off the 'Muslim ban' while Chad is on it?

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Nisrin Omer

Earlier this year, the then White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, argued that the 109 airport detentions authorised under the first Muslim ban were a "minor inconvenience" to keep America safe. I was among those 109 people who were detained, questioned, handcuffed and body searched under the ban, and nothing about our experiences could be characterised as minor or inconvenient.

An Iraqi man who was detained with me at John F Kennedy airport in New York on the evening of January 27 had waited for two years to receive a visa that would reunite him with his wife and child. As his family waited on the other side of the airport border, I watched him grow increasingly anxious and distraught as he was denied a translator and told that he could be deported back to Iraq. A few hours later, a 76-year-old Sudanese man with health issues was detained in the same terminal and held for 30 hours without medical attention.

At Dulles Airport, some 400km away, a five-year-old boy with a US passport was detained and separated from his Iranian mother for several hours.

For every one of us who was detained at a US airport, many more were prevented from boarding their planes at terminals around the world. In total, more than 100,000 visas were revoked with the stroke of US President Donald Trump's pen, and with it, hundreds and thousands of lives were altered and disrupted. In many ways, the mainstream media's somewhat myopic focus on our detentions, particularly on the detentions of doctors and researchers like myself, masked this reality.

Thousands were separated from their family members, were forced to postpone weddings and important medical procedures, interrupted their studies and lost employment and life savings as a result of the first ban. Because the Muslim ban is also a refugee ban, thousands of refugees, who risked their lives to flee wars and political persecution, were denied safety and refuge after years of navigating a scrupulous, bureaucratic US visa process.

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