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Yemeni Bodega Workers Face Fear and Uncertainty in Wake of Trump Order

By Gwynne Hogan | January 31, 2017 8:09am
 Yemeni Shadad Hadi, 21, had wanted to bring his wife and 2-year-old son to live with him in New York.
Yemeni Shadad Hadi, 21, had wanted to bring his wife and 2-year-old son to live with him in New York.
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DNAinfo/Gwynne Hogan

BROOKLYN — Yemeni bodega workers who are New Yorkers' go-to source for lotto tickets and sandwiches fear that their families will be torn apart by President Donald Trump's refugee ban.

Trump's executive order, which took effect on Friday, prevents immigrants from Yemen as well as six other predominantly Muslim nations from entering the country and may hinder the visa application process for others trying to enter.

Mohamed Mozeb, 20, a worker at Top City Gourmet in Bushwick on the corner of Wyckoff Avenue and Himrod Street, said his aunt and his two young cousins had recently gotten visas.

On Friday they had flown from Djibouti to Qatar on their way to New York. But when Mozeb's family heard about the ban, they sent his aunt back to Djibouti, fearing she'd be detained.

"We're going to see right now what happens," Mozeb said, explaining that his aunt was trying to join his uncle and his cousin who live in the city. 

"The last time she'd seen him was almost four years [ago]."


Shadad Hadi, 21, is a U.S. citizen but his wife and two-year-old-son still live in Yemen. He was saving up money to begin the visa process to bring them over.

"I want to bring [them] here, my mom, my wife, my son," he said. "I want to live here with my family."

Others balked at the swiftness with which Trump took action against Yemenis, even those who had visas granted by the U.S. government.

Many bodegas across the city are owned and operated by Yemeni immigrants. (DNAinfo/Gwynne Hogan)

To take that away overnight, it's not right," said Taher Hassan, 60, co-owner of T&A Deli on the corner of Grand Street and Bushwick Avenue in East Williamsburg. His friend's wife had a visa but was pulled off of a plane to the U.S. in Egypt over the weekend, he said.

"This is going to divide the family," he said. "How many people you got half here, half there?"

Hassan recently began visa applications to bring his daughter and sister to New York as ongoing civil war in Yemen has made living conditions there increasingly dangerous. Now he worries those will never be granted.

"All the world is complaining about this because it's not right," he said. "This is the land of the free.

"It's scary, it was a democracy, but now Trump comes."