Charles Laffiteau's Bigger Picture
2018-09-01 16:27:00 -


By Charles Laffiteau


I’m going to take a break from my analysis of American politics so that I can share with you the story of a boy named Huthaifa, who has always dreamed of living in America.

Huthaifa is the second of two children born in 2006 to a United Nations employee who works for the African Mission in Darfur, or UNAMID. For the first four years of his life, Huthaifa and his older sister Marynaya had a relatively stable, middle-class upbringing. Because the father was stationed in Darfur, Huthaifa and his sister only got to see him when he came home for two weeks every 40 days. While this was not ideal, Huthaifa had a stay-at-home mom, and an aunt and grandparents, with whom he spent time almost every day.

But Huthaifa’s secure existence began to change when he became old enough to start kindergarten in 2011. Huthaifa’s aunt, who had been working for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) since 2002, had decided it was time to follow a colleague’s suggestion and return to college to get an English language Master’s degree in development. Huthaifa’s aunt wanted to study in America, but Huthaifa’s grandfather did not want her to live so far away from their homeland, so his aunt opted to study for her Master’s in Ireland instead.

In the summer of 2011, shortly after his aunt departed for Ireland, the brutal suppression of Arab Spring protests in Huthaifa’s homeland led to an armed insurgency that endangered him and his family’s well-being. The stress of separation, coupled with the daily fear of physical violence, eventually led Huthaifa’s mother to ask his father for a divorce. Then, because the volatile security situation made it too dangerous for Huthaifa to attend school, his grandparents took him and his sister with them to live in Egypt during the summer of 2012.

The subsequent overthrow of the Morsi regime in 2013 led to a crackdown on issuing visas for citizens fleeing from armed conflicts in the Levant region. As a result, Huthaifa, his sister and his grandparents were forced to move to Istanbul, where they were enrolled in their third school in three years. However, by the summer of 2014, Huthaifa’s father was able to obtain a posting in Khartoum, which would allow the family to live in Sudan while they went to the American Embassy school in the capital.

Sadly, after just one year of relative stability, Huthaifa and his sister had to change schools again following the untimely death of their grandfather. For the past three years, their grandmother and several other relatives have done their best to care for the children while they have bounced around between several Pakistan embassy schools. This past spring, Huthaifa’s father was given a UN posting in Somalia that would no longer allow him to bring his family. So Huthaifa and his grandmother asked his aunt and her US citizen husband in America for their help.

Huthaifa’s aunt and uncle then began the process of obtaining an F-1 student visa so Huthaifa could live with them while he attended school. They got him admitted to a prestigious Catholic school and paid over $10,000 in tuition and fees. Unfortunately for Huthaifa, when he went to the US Embassy in Khartoum for his initial interview, he faced a blanket ‘no’ – purely because he was a citizen of Syria.

For Huthaifa’s aunt and uncle, this young boy has now become the face of President Trump’s travel ban to prevent “foreign nationals who may commit, aid, or support acts of terrorism, or otherwise pose a safety threat” from entering the United States. But the reason the Supreme Court gave for upholding that ban was also based on the government’s process for granting waivers.

So Huthaifa’s uncle and aunt – me and my wife Kinda – are now trying to find out if granting a waiver really is left to the discretion of the consular officers in Khartoum. Since Huthaifa is a young child who seeks to enter the US to reside with close family members who are both US citizens, Kinda and I are contending, based on the US Department of State’s stated visa waiver criteria, that:

a) denying entry would cause hardship to me, because of the tuition I paid and for Hutahifa, because he would be forced to risk his life by attending school in Syria;

b) The entry of this young boy would never pose any threat to America’s national security; and

c) The issuance of Huthaifa’s waiver is in the national interest because it both legitimises the government’s process for granting exceptions and shows the world President Trump’s administration isn’t heartless.

Since one US consulate would not accept a waiver request until a member of Congress got involved, I have enlisted the aid of Republican Congressman Jeb Hensarling. Since I figure it couldn’t hurt to have some help from the Man Upstairs, I have also asked for the assistance of the principal of the school where Huthaifa is enrolled, as well as Bishop Burns of the Dallas diocese.

Huthaifa’s final interview at the US Embassy in Khartoum is on 9 September; please pray he gets his visa.

Charles Laffiteau is a US Republican from Dallas, Texas pursuing a career in public service. He previously lectured on Contemporary US Business & Society at DCU from 2009-2011 and pursued a PhD in Public Policy and Political Economy.

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