Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Rural Mo. publisher shares his experience with U.S. visas; good example of localizing national story

Jon Rust
President Trump's travel ban of seven countries—Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen—is more than about scoring political points; it's about real people with real lives at stake, opines Jon K. Rust, publisher of the Southeast Missourian in Cape Girardeau, Mo. Rust has firsthand experience, having gone through the arduous process of welcoming an 11-year-old Russian orphan into his home.

"In the case of Russia, after filling out highly detailed forms with much personal information, hundreds of people line up every day outside the U.S. embassy to enter at their appointed time for interviews," he writes. "Embassy staff who already have reviewed countless documents for a candidate and conducted investigations, if necessary, make life-altering decisions with little time to sugarcoat their rejections. Anya, this little girl struggling with so much, felt each of her four rejections in her heart. She would burst into tears, her whole body sobbing."

"Part of her response was because she was just exhausted," he writes. "To get to the interview involved someone taking time off work, traveling with her on a bus for several hours and then taking an 8-hour overnight train, public transportation, and then waiting in line sometimes in the rain and cold for her interview, which on more than one occasion lasted for only a couple of minutes. There wasn't much to confirm or question in the main part of her documents—she was poor with a troubled family—and thus, supporting materials weren't of interest. Part of the other reason she sobbed is that she just wanted to be loved and embraced—to succeed at something—when so often in her life she was beaten down."

Rust writes that he is telling the story "because I can't imagine what it would have felt like—other than fury and despair—for Anya to have received her visa after more than a year of effort, to travel here and then be rejected at the airport because while she was in the air, a presidential order banned everyone from her country from entering the U.S.," he writes. "The way the ban was implemented was cruel, haphazard and short-sighted. Innocent people were treated in deplorable ways."

"If the Trump administration planned the surprise implementation to gain maximum exposure, it succeeded," he writes. "But the rollout was heartless, and for those who argue that it had to be sprung instead of announced and calmly implemented, they don't understand the in-depth process that those travelers had already faced (more than two years of scrutiny in some cases). Since the weekend, several aspects of the presidential order have been clarified or walked back, including not barring those with green cards. Those changes are good. But they should have been clear in the original implementation."

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