A lot of people agree that this election sucks. On a typical day, I cannot scroll through Facebook for more than 15 seconds before some version of this meme pops up:
In some ways, I sympathize with this feeling. However, I know better than to think my choice doesn’t matter.
Without going into my own political theories and leanings, I just want to share a very specific plea to those considering casting their vote for the “presumptive Republican nominee” (henceforth The Nominee, as I personally believe he has received more than enough publicity). We are all aware of The Nominee’s stated and confirmed claim that he would institute a “temporary ban” of Muslims entering the United States. I need you to understand what that really means.
My husband, Zac, is a Syrian exile. We met in Lebanon in November 2013, fell in love, and got married almost exactly a year ago. We are such an awesome match and an amazing team. Our marriage is based on shared passions (music, cultural pluralism, and social justice), blunt communication, and a willingness to tackle every challenge sent our way, together. Due to Zac’s nationality and a string of unfortunate circumstances, we have been separated for about 9 months of the past year. Our first year of marriage. Including our first anniversary.
Zac has spent that time laying low in Nepal and now Malaysia, two of the handful of countries willing to issue visa-on-arrival to Syrians.* Zac is now staying with incredibly generous friends of mine in Kuala Lumpur. His visa expires in about a month, and his passport expires in less than six months. This means he cannot legally stay or go anywhere, except for his home country where he would be A. forcibly conscripted into Assad’s murderous military forces, B. tortured or disappeared due to his association with Syrian opposition activists, or C. crucified by extremists whom he also refuses to endorse. That is, if he doesn’t die of starvation, untreated illness, or a bomb first.
Needless to say, I applied for his US green card as soon as I could.
I have been begging the US government to expedite Zac’s visa for the last several months. Anybody who has gone through it knows how expensive, difficult, and slow it is to bring a foreign spouse of any nationality to join them here. We are not alone. But if The Nominee is elected President of the United States, we could be.
The Nominee would ban my husband from entering the US, because his Syrian-issued passport and identity documents label him “Sunni Muslim”. Zac did not ask for those words to be printed there. The only time I’ve seen him step foot in a mosque was to ask about a particularly beautiful recording of the call to prayer. As an outspoken hip-hop artist whose civil rights have never been guaranteed, he has put himself at more risk speaking against Muslim extremists than The Nominee ever will.** Not that any of this should matter. Even if Zac was your average, moderately religious Syrian pursuing an apolitical career, he would still deserve to be protected and reunited with his wife. Bottom line: A blanket religious exclusion will leave my husband and others like him vulnerable, abandoned.
I honestly don’t know what we will do if The Nominee wins. All of our hard work and hopes will be instantly tossed away. Zac will become a refugee in the true sense of the word, and I will have to leave my home country to be with him. I don’t know where we will live, how we will provide for ourselves, what legal rights will be stripped from us.
All I can do is share our story and hope that my husband gets his visa before Inauguration Day. I ask that come November, you consider our future.***
* As of January 2016, Nepal no longer issues visa-on-arrival to Syrians.
*** If you can’t stand the idea of voting for Hillary Clinton, check out Vote Pact for an ingenious alternative to “wasting your vote”!