Rachel Adrian is expecting her first child next month, and has been waiting for her husband, a citizen of Iraq, to join her in Missouri. The paperwork for his visa was completed; he’d gone for medical exams and submitted tax forms. He was hoping to fly soon to the U.S.
Then came President Trump’s order Friday suspending arrivals from a number of predominantly Muslim countries—among them Iraq. The trip is off, and Adrian is facing the prospect of having to give birth without her husband present.
On Sunday, the couple talked by phone, devastated. “Everything has been put on hold,” said Adrian, 29.
“We’re trying to do everything the legal way. We believe in the process. We believe people should get vetted and Americans should be safe,” she said, “People that say immigrants and refugees don’t get vetted, they don’t understand.”
Adrian, a registered nurse, moved to Iraq five years ago to do relief work. She met her husband, Hoger Ameen, 29, a Sunni Muslim Kurd who works as a telecommunications specialist, at an interdenominational church in the northern city of Suleimaniya in 2013. They married the following year, settled there temporarily and started the process of applying for a spouse visa.
They spent $2,000 assembling tax forms, getting medical exams and finding a sponsor.
“He had his interview in June, so we thought his visa would be done shortly after that,” Adrian said.
Adrian got a job interview in Missouri, and moved back to her hometown of Saint Joseph July 19.
“We wanted to move back to America to be able to spend our first few years [there] with our new son,” said Adrian, 29.
They have already picked a name: Aland, “a Kurdish name but it kind of sounds American.”
She’s due Thursday.
On Saturday, her husband received an email from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad notifying him of the executive order.
“Visa issuance to aliens from the countries of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen has been suspended effective immediately until further notification,” the email said. “If you are a national, or dual national, of one of these countries, please do not schedule a visa appointment or pay any visa fees at this time. If you already have an appointment scheduled, please DO NOT ATTEND your appointment as we will not be able to proceed with your visa interview.”
Adrian said that even if the order was lifted and her husband’s visa approved, it would take two weeks to mail it to Iraq.
“We kept thinking he’s going to make it,” Adrian said, but now, “There’s no way.”
After the legal dust settles, she said, “will we have to start the process all over again? Will his papers have expired?”
The bottom line: “I have no idea when he’ll get to meet his son. And that’s really sad.”
Her husband said he is still coming to terms with what it will mean to miss the delivery and the start of his son’s life.
“I’m really sad but I am trying to stay strong to encourage my wife,” he said via email. “I am afraid that when I do get to come my son won’t know who I am. This is my first son and I feel sick that I won’t get to hold him.”
Adrian recalled driving through northern Iraq, being greeted by Kurdish peshmerga fighters at checkpoints who spoke little English, but who cheered for former President George W. Bush.
Adrian said the executive order “is also affecting our relationship with the people over there.”
“I have felt nothing but warmth, acceptance and hospitality from them. I’ve been invited into homes, and parties and so many things. Rarely have I met a person that is hostile to us. It’s very sad as Americans that we don’t understand: These are real people,” she said. “This order is just solidifying that we are dehumanizing these people, when we have a president that signs an order like this.”
Ameen says he sees people’s attitudes changing in northern Iraq.
“Many people were very thankful that the Americans are protecting Kurdistan but now really we are sad about America’s example to the world,” he said.
He noted that the Kurdish region of northern Iraq has accepted millions of Arab refugees from the south displaced by fighting in recent years.
“If we, people that have been persecuted by Arabs for decades, can help these refugees, then why can’t Americans?” he said. “All of my friends are unhappy about this order. The refugees need someone to help them. There are so many kids that are starving and need help.”