1.31.2017

a family matter

Last week, Alaa and Fanny took my picture with Donna Ferrato before any of this happened.

 I walked in the door and Fanny said, "You guys are dressed just alike! Let me take your picture! She and Alaa did a quick photo session. Alaa is screening award-winning The War Show, a documentary he produced about Syria, a week from today in New York. Alaa is from Syria, a permanent resident of the U.S., where he lives with wife Fanny and son. But now, because of Trump's fiat, he can't leave the country to see his family or do his work—he wouldn't be able to get back in. Donna was at the "No ban, no wall" demonstration supporting refugees yesterday at Battery Park in NYC, and here are some pictures. In our family, this has gotten personal.

 Here is Alaa's explanation of his current state.
 I have been asked by many friends about my situation in regards to the travel ban as a Syrian who lives in the US. Thanks everyone for being so supportive and empathetic. I'll explain my situation here.
I'm a permanent resident in the US and a national of Syria. This means that if I leave the country I'll be banned from coming back. I have been here since 2013, mostly in New York. Now I'm in the process of naturalization (becoming an American citizen). I'm married to an American and we have a son that was born here. I came here as an immigrant under the spouse program, so luckily I didn't need to seek asylum or apply for TPS.
In the past few years I spent a lot of time traveling for work, making "The War Show" in Denmark. I was always being pulled out of the line for "random" security check, which I don't mind. I was denied Visas to the UK and Turkey, even though I had American and Danish residencies. There is a great amount of bullying that comes with traveling while Syrian.
The immigration program to the US is one of, if not THE most secure in the world. The amount of information the DHS casually asked me would blow your mind, including my family's phone numbers in Damascus and their addresses one time. I always take it well. I understand there's a war in my country.
So far I can't travel because of the travel ban. I can't meet my family in Lebanon, which I haven't seen in over a year, neither can I do my book opening there. I already couldn't make it to the printing since Turkey didn't allow me a visa. I'm working on a new film project that requires travel there too, that's how I make a living, and now I can't do it.
The reason I never publicly raved about this is that I am in a much better situation than most of my Syrian friends in the US or in Europe who left Syria after 2011. But now for these same reasons I think we need to speak up. If I were under TPS I may not want to speak up because it can be taken away as it is Temporary Protection Status.
I was at the rally yesterday, it was great to see diverse New York stand up for us, people from all walks of life were there. It is very empowering and it gives me a sense of belonging to New York I haven't had before. I have a lot of criticism for liberals, I don't like Clinton or the democratic party much. But this is not political, this is an existential threat to what defines us as a city. People who happen to have a weaker position, due to unfortunate circumstances like where they were born, they need solidarity, speak up, this is a line in the sand that needs drawing. Once we compromise one thing, we loose everything.


1 comment :

Kate Knapp Artist Blog said...

you are lookin' pretty sharp there girls...keep up the good work...it's an inside AND outside job...