This is my family’: Where the travel ban debate hits home

In this March 12, 2018 photo, Abdisalan Mohamed Jele, 31, poses for a picture with his two sons, Hamza Abdisalan Mohamed, 7, left, and Mohamed-Amin Abdisalan Mohamed, 4, at his attorney's office in St. Cloud, Minn. Jele and the boys are U.S. citizens of Somali descent. He brought his boys to the U.S. in October, expecting his wife would follow with the couple's baby girl. Months later, the family is still separated due to the travel ban. (AP Photo/Amy Forliti)

ST. CLOUD, MINNESOTA, AND NAIROBI, KENYA

When Abdisalan Mohamed Jele brought his two young sons from Kenya to Minnesota, he thought his wife and new baby girl would follow two weeks later.

Jele and his wife, Nimo Abdi Hassan, are from Somalia, which has been ravaged by civil war for a quarter-century. He came to the U.S. in 2007, became a citizen five years later and rejoiced when she was issued a visa shortly after giving birth last year. But the visa expired before she could get the newborn a passport. The couple figured a new visa would be issued quickly.

Instead, the family has been waiting six months, with no reunion in sight. A March 8 email from the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, where Hassan lives, says the travel ban makes her ineligible for a visa, but consular officials are reviewing the possibility of a waiver.

Their sons, 7 and 4, sometimes ask when their mother is coming. Jele tries to reassure them: “Soon. Soon.”

“It’s so hard,” he says, wiping tears from his cheeks. “I’m American. I don’t know why my family can’t come here.”

Jele’s attorney, Laura Tripiciano, says Hassan, 32, easily qualifies for a waiver. But there’s no timeline for a decision, and Jele, 31, isn’t sure how much longer he can wait. He’s supporting Hassan in Kenya while paying for a St. Cloud, Minnesota, apartment big enough for a family of five.

On a typical day, Jele drops his elder son at the school bus and the younger one with the boys’ aunt, then goes to school himself to learn English and earn his GED. After taking the older boy from school to the aunt’s, Jele works from 3:30 p.m. to midnight at a life jacket factory. Finally, he takes the sleeping boys home.

Some days, he has no time to eat. Once, he was so frazzled he forgot his work badge, safety glasses and shoes. He appreciates his sister’s help with child care, but it’s becoming too much to ask.

If his wife doesn’t get a visa soon, Jele thinks he might have to send their boys — who are U.S. citizens — back to Kenya or quit his job to care for them. He said he understands security concerns but believes Hassan is being singled out because she’s Somali.

“I love this country because we have a lot of opportunity, education, health, peace,” Jele says. “I live here. I want to live here. But if my wife, she lives in Nairobi … sometimes, I’m thinking I move back to Africa.”

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SOURCE: Associated Press

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