The Trump Administration Seals the Escape Doors After Turning Yemen Into Hell

There is no longer any legal way for Yemenis to come to America.


The war in Yemen has taken a devastating toll. More than 85,000 babies and toddlers have starved to death, according to a 2018 Save the Children report. Another roughly 80,000 people—civilians and combatants—have died in the war. The United States is a party to this carnage, because it has aided Saudi Arabia's military strikes against this small Middle Eastern country. Yet last week President Donald Trump vetoed a congressional resolution to end U.S. involvement in the war.

What has the United States done to relieve the humanitarian catastrophe that it has had a hand in causing? It has blocked Yemenis trying to escape to America.

The Trump administration has yet to accept any Yemeni refugees this year. It has banned nearly all permanent immigration from the country, including for immediate family members of U.S. citizens, and it has stopped issuing most temporary visas. For good measure, last year it decided to make many Yemenis subject to deportation when their temporary visas expire by withholding Temporary Protected Status (TPS) from them.

The United Nations Group of Regional and International Eminent Experts on Yemen has concluded that the "coalition air strikes have caused most direct civilian casualties" in Yemen and "hit residential areas, markets, funerals, weddings, detention facilities, civilian boats and even medical facilities." A 2018 Human Rights Watch report warns U.S. officials that they could face "legal liability for war crimes" if they continue indiscriminate support for the Saudi campaign, through refueling jets, providing military supplies, and other means.

Even as the war crimes proceed, the United States has resettled no refugees since January 1, 2019. In 2018, the State Department resettled two Yemeni refugees. While we might expect this from the notoriously anti-immigrant Trump administration, President Barack Obama was hardly better, resettling just 42 Yemenis from 2015 to 2016.

Moreover, Trump's travel ban has indefinitely suspended almost all legal immigration from Yemen, except in very exceptional cases.

Because of America's family-focused immigration system, the ban disproportionately affects immediate Yemeni relatives of U.S. citizens. As of January 2019, the administration had already barred more than 1,700 American citizens—American citizens—from bringing over their Yemeni spouses and minor children. About 3,500 Yemeni kids are thus being separated from their American parents. (Apparently, the administration's family separation policy isn't limited to migrants at the Mexican border.) Thousands of parents of adult U.S. citizens are also being denied green cards that could save their lives.

In 2015, then-Rep. Steve Russell (R–Okla.) related the story about a Syrian interpreter who had served with him in Iraq and become a U.S. citizen. The interpreter's mother died in that country's civil war while awaiting a visa. There must be countless tragedies just like this one that we don't hear about; this one only received attention because it personally affected a congressman.

The travel ban also prevents Yemenis from receiving temporary visas for business or tourism purposes. They thus cannot request asylum, because that requires being on American soil.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has refused to redesignate Yemen for TPS. This would provide temporary legal status and work authorization to people holding expiring or expired visas if going home would mean going to disaster zones. Haitians received TPS, for example, after a devastating earthquake hit Haiti in 2010.

Yemen has been hit by a man-made disaster of even greater proportions. The Obama administration protected Yemenis who arrived during its time in office, making its final redesignation in January 2019. Yet the Trump administration has declined to allow Yemenis who have entered since then to apply for TPS, leaving them vulnerable to deportations to the war zone.

The United States doesn't have an obligation to put out fires everywhere in the world. But it shouldn't pour gas on them, as it has in Yemen by supporting the Saudi assaults. And it certainly shouldn't then slam shut the fire escapes, leaving the residents to burn.

NEXT: ‘Some People Might Say That Ricky Fell Through a Crack in the System. This Is Not a Crack. This Is the System.’

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  1. Even as the war crimes proceed

    You do your argument no good by equating every civilian death with a war crime.

    War sucks. US proxy wars suck. But “war crime” has a very specific meaning, and will continue to do so as long as war is an accepted extension of politics. If you want to argue against war itself, do so. Don’t hide behind articles ostensibly on immigration.

    1. I hate Trump’s effect on every single issue. The media coverage is so fucking stupid and lacks any nuance or analysis, just “orange man bad”.

      The Yemeni Civil War is a complicated situation, and I absolutely agree America should have never gotten involved at all. However, whoever controls Yemen can effectively control the Suez Canal. It is a big deal, and a group of Iran-funded fundamentalist Islamists overthrew the government. Listening to news reports you would think the Saudis invaded the country and committed genocide just for shits and giggles.

      The Khashoggi killing was complicated as well. He obviously didn’t deserve to die, but he wasn’t just a “journalist”, and his murder didn’t even break the top 100 of atrocious acts of the Saudis over the last decade. It’ s just bad now because Trump is president.

      Also, Obama wasn’t just a tepid supporter. He actively encouraged the Saudis to get more involved in the early stages of the civil war.

      None of this means America should be involved (we shouldn’t, and we should just abandon the entire region), and the refugee question is separate, but fuck the press and fuck Obama for getting us into this shit to begin with and absolving themselves of all blame.

      1. Yemen would currently be a war-torn hellhole regardless of what America does, and the best part about American non-intervention is all of the fucking morons who think everything wrong in the world is America’s fault having to twist themselves into knots to blame shit on us.

        1. Don’t be silly – had the US never gotten involved in Yemen you’d still be reading this post, except it would be blaming Trump for the mess in Yemen for not getting involved.

          1. Not at Reason. The rest of the press would go with that angle, but Reason would absolutely be defending a decision not to intervene in Yemen, or almost any foreign conflict. You aren’t that familiar with Reason if you think otherwise. They don’t suffer from Trump Derangement Syndrome. They’re just consistent.

            1. Normally I would agree, but Reason largely has an editorial policy of ‘Orange Man Bad!’

            2. You must be colorblind, if you really don’t see the “orange man bad” here written large.

            3. They don’t suffer from Trump Derangement Syndrome.


              They’re just consistent.

              Consistently leftist and unprincipled. Trump would be right for not going to or continuing war in Yemen, but he’d be doing it for the wrong reasons and his perniciousness and foolhardiness would lead us all to wonder about the US’s role in any future stability in the region.

              Also, such questionable futures and instability could be adequately addressed by an open borders policy (Where’s OBL when you need him?).

        2. Everything you said and then some. The accusation that America and Trump turned Yemen into a war torn hell hole is so stupid as to be beneath response. There is a good case to be made that the US should not be involved there. There is no case to be made that the place would somehow not be a war torn hell hole if we had never been involved.

          Trump really does seem to make people stupid.

          1. Look at Venezuela. The US didn’t intervene, and it collapsed by itself, and now all of the stupid lefties who spend a decade praising Chavez and Maduro look like fucking morons still trying to blame it on the US. There’s a 50/50 chance more heavy-handed US influence there would have made things worse, not better, so why go with the risk? Just let these people sort their own problems out.

          2. About the only differences between Bush’s and Obama’s Middle East policy were that Obama committed far fewer troops and fucked up far more countries with his shenanigans.

            1. The only argument for Obama’s foreign policy being better than Bush’s is the argumet that American lives and troops are worth more than foreigners, which is a perfectly acceptable position to have, but something that would normally get you labeled a white supremacist by the left. He flooded the Middle East with weapons, arming every “rebel” group and loose bands of “allies”, doing more even damage than Bush did. So yay, he didn’t start any ground wars and saved American troops’ lives, but his foreign policy was a fucking disaster, especially Libya. The Iraq War was a mistake, but Saddam was arguably the most evil and aggressive dictator on the planet in the last 40 years and I’m not worry he’s dead. Obama’s intervention in Libya was far dumber, especially after seeing what happened in Iraq and making all the same mistakes, and Gadaffi wasn’t even in the top 10 of dangerous violent ME dictators.

            2. But, Obummy ordered a helluva lot more drone strikes!

            3. About the only differences between Bush’s and Obama’s Middle East policy were that Obama committed far fewer troops and fucked up far more countries with his shenanigans.

              Are we in Arab Summer, Fall, or Winter at this point?

    2. Sorry, Bro, but when a nation is supplying weapons & tactical support to a regime that is committing war crimes, they are also committing war crimes!

      The larger picture is that we support the Saudis here & ignore all their evil crap (and have been doing it for decades) because they keep taking our fiat dollars for their oil & that helps keep the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency & helps keep us from economic ruin! It is the same reason Obummy & Da Witch ordered the hit on Qaddafi in Libya. He was on the cusp of creating a Pan-African currency backed by Gold & the Powers That Be could have none of that, so they lied about a humanitarian crisis in Libya & a stable nation has been destroyed. These were also War Crimes!

      1. So we’re tossing the concept of free markets and individual responsibility here at Reason and adopting the progressive guilt by association?

  2. Invade the World.
    Invite the World.

  3. because Yemen was some kind of Hong Kong before 2016?

    1. You say that like it is a reasonable response? It doesn’t address any of the substantive points in the article.

      1. Yemen’s problems predate the T Administration. I wish the whole world would live free like Americans so we didn’t have to have immigration arguments, but America’s immigration problems predate the T Administration. Yemen will suck and American immigration won’t be fixed by 2024. I’m blessed to have been born here. Better for you?

        Brevity. Soul. Wit.

      2. Valk, it is a shitty article with a snotty premise and little substance to address.

        Which was probably the whole point.

  4. I disagree with the Trump administration’s policy on Yemeni immigration, however the headline mis-characterizes the scope of the Yemeni situation. The long-term foreign policy, support of Saudi Arabia and forces like ISIS and Houthi rebels are responsible for turning Yemen into hell.

    1. I disagree with the Trump administration’s policy on Yemeni immigration

      I didn’t see anything as distinctly written and discussed policy. I infer reticence. I don’t exactly disagree with reticence in accepting immigrants from a country with whom we are in engaged as proxy in their regional/civil war.

      1. I didn’t see anything as distinctly written and discussed policy.

        I should be more clear. There is no clearly written policy “re: Yemen and/or the war”. There’s a blanket policy against countries that can’t vet their own citizenry and/or are majority muslim but to portray that as the Trump administration’s Yemeni immigration policy is stealing several bases, a pretty egregious misrepresentation, and, depending on any given individual’s advancement of the ‘muslim ban’ narrative, disingenuous portrayal of the facts.

        1. There’s a blanket policy against countries that are […] or are majority muslim

          That’s a lie.

          It would be good if there were such a policy, but there isn’t.

  5. Now that we’ve had the blue wave, I’m waiting for congress to start restricting a president’s ability to wage drone warfare. The executive branch basically has its own little air force now to use as it chooses.

    1. Yeah, The Democrats object to the use of drones. That is why Obama never used them, right?

    2. “Now?” Are you kidding? Bush started drone strikes and violations of basic American rights and privacy. Obama got elected to reverse that, yet he massively expanded those programs. The Democrats didn’t do shit about it during either presidency.

      They aren’t going to do shit about it now either, because what they really hate about Trump is not that he is too hawkish, but because he isn’t enough of a war monger for them.

      1. They hate Trump because he is an impediment to more progressive democrat power. Which is the whole point of their existence. Everything their stated agenda and actions are merely a delivery system.

        1. The war mongers these days are found in both parties; that’s why both parties hated Trump so much.

          It’s not that Trump is some kind of ideological libertarian or pacifist, he’s simply ineffective and incompetent at everything he does, including war. But that’s still better than a competent war monger, and it’s why the competent war mongers hate him so much.

  6. I’m not sure how one makes the logical leap that we should allow immigrants from countries we are supposedly at war with.

    This article is just insane drivel.

    1. Exactly: it is absurd to let people from countries we are (supposedly) fighting into the US.

      It’s also absurd to let communists into the US as refugees when their population finally rebels against communist rule. But that’s exactly what we did with many Somalis, and it’s how we got people like Omar.

  7. The Trump Administration Seals the Escape Doors After Turning Yemen Into Hell

    There is no longer any legal way for Yemenis to come to America.

    Because all doors out of Yemen lead to America?

    1. Only the US is required to have totally open borders. Didn’t you know that?

      1. Even if I assume the retarded arguments for immigration, this level of retardation ignores and exceedingly de-legitimizes all the people and nations between Yemen and here. They all probably probably could use some additional labor. All of them are going to expend resources either assimilating, housing, or transporting these people. Most of them would have a difficult time culturally and politically assimilating them. The idea that they should just be on our shores is just so racist/white supremacist.

        I kinda wonder if you let Bier ramble on long enough, if he’d get to a point where he’s proposing that we ship these people here on cargo ships so that they could take menial labor positions for no pay.

      2. Our job to pay for their airfare, too. Once they show up, demanding asylum status at the Mexican border, we have to let them in. Think of the children.

    2. “There is no longer any legal way for Yemenis to come to America.”


  8. “The United States is a party to this carnage, because it has aided Saudi Arabia’s military strikes against this small Middle Eastern country.”

    Again, everybody that makes these arguments seems to want to paper over what is meant by “aiding” the Saudis in this. Why don’t you be more specific? In what way has the U.S. “aided Saudi Arabia’s military strikes”?

    I think you mean that the U.S. has shared intelligence with the Saudis, especially helping them target specific terrorists threats, like ISIL-YP. If you mean to say that the United States is responsible for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen (rather than the Iranians’, ISIL’s, and the Saudis’ direct involvement) because we shared intelligence with the Saudis to hit anti-American terrorists, you should definitely say so.

    I believe sharing intelligence is the extent of U.S. involvement in “military strikes” in Yemen, and you would have a hard time making the case that this makes the United States responsible for the carnage of the Yemeni civil war.

    In fact, a neocon might take your argument to heart. Wouldn’t neocons in both parties would love to blame Trump for the carnage because of our lack of involvement? They might say that our tiny little bit of involvement is causing this carnage anyway–just like Liberia and Rwanda were supposedly our fault because we stood by and did nothing.

  9. A more accurate headline would be “The Trump Administration Seals the Escape Doors After The Obama Administration Turned Yemen Into Hell”.

    1. Yemen was hell before Trump, and before Obama, and before Bush, and…
      It does not make the list of top 1000 places to visit in the world on any rational thinker’s list.

    2. Actually, when the Yemeni people revolt against their government, that probably isn’t the fault of Barack Obama. The Arab Spring and its aftermath would have happened regardless of what we did or didn’t do–just like in Syria. That’s reality.

      Believe it or not, not everything that happens in the world is the fault of the United States–regardless of who’s president. The idea that everything that happens in the world is somehow our fault–either through our action or our inaction–is like a weird religious doctrine.

      The Democrats treated Obama like a messiah. It’s funny how the U.S. government seems to have replaced God in so many people’s minds–all across the political spectrum. It used to be that people believed nothing happened without God’s will. Now the U.S. is responsible for everything.

    3. A more accurate headline would be “The Trump Administration Seals the Escape Doors After The Obama Administration Turned Yemen Into Hell”.

      Again, accurate in that there are no doors on Yemen, that Trump didn’t seal the doors that aren’t there, and any doors here that he did seal don’t lead directly, or even really indirectly, to Yemen.

      Even at that, his door closing policy was a near literal photocopy of the Obama Administration’s recommended door closing policy and the idea that the US should be enforcing an open borders policy between here, Yemen, and all points in between is exceedingly statist/imperialistic.

  10. Obama is responsible for Yemen, not Trump.

    And regardless of who is responsible, what possible reason could the US have to let the population of a radicalized US enemy into the US? That is utterly absurd.

    US immigration should be limited to skilled people from friendly nations with traditions of liberal democracy and Western values, period.

  11. The religious “The Voice of God is Government” idea is scary to hear from my fellow libertarians, but the effective argument for authoritarianism coming from my fellow libertarians is even worse.

    When we clutch our pearls in dismay to find out that people overthrowing their dictators is a messy business, we’re effectively arguing for authoritarianism.

    Are you only in favor of people overthrowing their dictators if there’s no bloodshed? Doesn’t every dictator argue that there will be a horrific civil war if it weren’t for their authoritarianism?

    Without Tito, Yugoslavia might descend into civil war and ethnic cleansing! Without Saddam Hussein, Iraq might descend into anarchy (and not the good kind)! They all say the same thing.

    There isn’t anything libertarian about bemoaning people overthrowing their own dictators. Blaming Obama or Trump is a red herring. U.S. involvement in world events is a red herring. If you oppose people overthrowing their own dictators because the aftermath is bloody, then you’re a boot-licker.

    You guys know what the Second Amendment is for, right?

    Circa 1865, I bet there were plenty of people in GB arguing over who was to blame for the American Civil War. Was it the Liberals or the Conservatives? Oh no! The seeds of the American Civil War were planted in 1789. Maybe we should blame George III! Maybe we should blame the French! What an absurd argument. The American Revolution happened for American reasons. The American Civil War happened for American reasons, too–only more so.

    The Yemeni Revolution and the Yemeni Civil War happened for Yemeni reasons. If you want the U.S. to stop interfering in the rest of the world, start with getting rid of whatever weird stuff is in your own head and makes you imagine that the Yemeni Revolution and its aftermath were somehow a reaction to or a responsibility of King, Lord, God Barack Obama.

  12. More than 85,000 babies and toddlers have starved to death….Another roughly 80,000 people—civilians and combatants—have died in the war.

    See? He told you these places are shitholes but you didn’t believe Him. Never doubt President Pantone 159. He knows all, he sees all. He will make America greater (again), one dead, brown baby at a time.

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