Stranded Yemenis, thousands of others stand to lose ‘golden ticket’ to U.S.

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Yemen is urging the U.S. government to take in dozens of Yemenis who traveled to Malaysia in recent months expecting to immigrate to the United States, only to find themselves stranded by President Donald Trump’s temporary travel ban.

The ban, which was blocked by lower courts before being partially reinstated by the Supreme Court in June, temporarily bars citizens of Yemen and five other Muslim-majority countries with no “bona fide” connections to the United States from traveling there.

The Supreme Court ruling sharply limited the number of people affected by the ban. Largely unreported has been the fate of one group – thousands of citizens of the six countries who won a randomized U.S. government lottery last year that enabled them to apply for a so-called green card granting them permanent residence in the United States.

In a stroke of bad luck for the lottery winners, the 90-day travel ban will expire on Sept. 27, just three days before their eligibility for the green cards expires. Given the slow pace of the immigration process, the State Department will likely struggle to issue their visas in time.

A recent email from the U.S. government to lottery winners still awaiting their visas warned “it is plausible that your case will not be issuable” due to the travel ban.

The lottery attracts about 14 million applicants each year, many of whom view it as a chance at the “American Dream.” It serves as a potent symbol of U.S. openness abroad, despite the fact that the chance of success is miniscule – about 0.3 percent, or slightly fewer than 50,000, of lottery entrants actually got a green card in 2015.

The program helps to foster an image of America “as a country which welcomes immigrants and immigration from around the world, but also especially from Africa,” said Johnnie Carson, a former U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs during the Obama administration.

Some former diplomats worry the travel ban’s impact on…

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