After surviving multiple bomb attacks while translating for US troops during the bloodiest fighting of the Iraq occupation, Hayder – who has asked the Guardian not to use his real name – has a plane ticket for Texas that he may yet never use,thanks to President Donald Trump.
Farah Alkhafji, who endured the killing of her husband, the burning of her house, the kidnapping of her father, was weeks away from taking her US citizenship test. Now she fears she will never see her Iraqi family again.
They are just two of the millions of people affected by Trump’s de facto ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, which was stayed by a New York federal judge on Saturday until a hearing on 21 February.
It appears unlikely that stay will apply to Hayder and Alkhafji. They are two people who sacrificed their safety on behalf of an America that on Friday slammed its doors in their faces.
“I am very grateful for each and every day I experience democracy and freedom in this great country,” said Alkhafji in a phone interview on Saturday night, as she worried about the health of her 67-year old father, with whom in Iraq she operated a concrete company providing material for the T-walls and barriers protecting US bases and checkpoints.
For five years, Alkhafji said, her father has attempted to get into the US, along with her mother and two sisters. She has no idea of what has happened to visa status.
Alkhafji escaped Iraq as a refugee. She now lives with her new husband, an American, in northern Virginia and with her two children. In addition to the gratitude she feels toward America when she wakes, she also feels worry: worry for her sister, who has special needs, and for her father’s diabetes and high blood pressure, all amidst the continuing violence of Iraq.
“If the president wants to protect the country, I understand the burden is on his shoulders,” Alkhafji said. “I respect his administration. But I would like to tell him, ‘You want to protect America from the people who helped them in Iraq? Really?’”