Dr. Debbie Almontaser, Muslim Community Network
by Bryan Fonseca
Feb 08, 2017 | 3330 views | 0 0 comments | 174 174 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When Dr. Debbie Almontaser heard about President Donald Trump’s executive action to suspend travel for seven predominantly Muslim countries, her first thought was how it was going to affect the local Yemeni community.

Yemen is one of the seven countries included in the restrictions. According to Almontaser, there’s a large Yemeni population in both Brooklyn and the Bronx.

“Just thinking about them and their families and how they’re not going to know whether to travel outside of the U.S. or not,” she said, “or what news and information they needed to share with their families.”

Her phone was ringing “off the hook” that Friday night. Her network of fellow Yemenis expressed confusion.

“People from the community were asking me, ‘what does this mean for our community?” she said. “Are we all going to be registered? Are we all going to be deported?”

It was especially tough for the immigrants who have limited English skills, work six or seven days a week, and are not connected to social media.

They had an emergency meeting on Saturday night, where she met up with a small group of community members.

“We broke it down for them of what it means,” she said. “We were able to educate them as much as possible.”

She advised them to tell their relatives not to try to come into the U.S. so they’re not detained or held anywhere.

“But it was just a small group of people,” she said.

To reach a larger swath of the population, Almontaser and other activists decided to host “know your rights” training on the travel ban – one in Brooklyn and another in the Bronx.

She also plans to create a merchants association to organize the Yemeni-Americans, many of whom are grocery store owners, so they can mobilize quickly.
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