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The U.S. Embassy in Sana’a illegally taking passports away from American Citizens in Yemen

The U.S. Embassy in Sana’a illegally taking passports away from American Citizens in Yemen

More than 20 known cases of Yemeni-Americans who have tried to renew their passports in Yemen have surfaced in the last four months. The Yemeni American News has learned that the usual scenario is that American citizens of Yemeni descent have had their passports taken away when they go to the American Embassy in Sana’a to either renew their passports or get a visa for an immediate relative. Not only is it common for the embassy to decline a passport renewal or disallow a visa but, in addition, citizens are having their passports confiscated.

The Embassy of the United States in Sana’a claims they are taking these actions because there was “fraud” involved in the process. In fact, in a classified document leaked by WikiLeaks, the post from Sana’a says “all Immigrant Visa (IV) cases are considered fraudulent until proven otherwise.” [1]

The U.S. Constitution bars the U.S. government from taking away a citizen’s passport unless they committed an act of espionage or aided the enemy. There are cases where Yemeni-Americans go to renew their passports in the Embassy and end up being interrogated, and in the process, they are blackmailed into signing self-incriminating documents.

Mukhtar Alkhanshley, a Yemeni American activist in San Francisco, California says “It is safe to say that there are definitely cases of fraud, especially in the past from the 1970-90’s, but the vast majority of people who have pending cases aren’t frauds, liars, untruthful etc.”

“With all the new procedures and technological advancements (bone testing, DNA testing) it is impossible to be fraudulent. Since I started working as a paralegal under an immigration attorney last year, I have seen stark differences win real money in casino here in the way Yemenis are treated at the US embassy. For example, in Jordan you can go and renew your passport at the US Embassy in one day while in Yemen it can take six months to get an appointment. If any other nationality who has a US citizenship and gets married oversees and wants to bring their spouse into the US, it takes three to six months, while it takes Yemeni-Americans three to six years (and sometimes more) to do the same. It took a Yemeni-American friend of mine three and a half years to get their mother an entry visa, while it takes the rest of the world six months.” Alkhanshley adds

Alkhanshley goes on to say, “The biggest issue for me is that people are having their civil liberties literally ripped away from their hands. Even if someone has lied to the US government all their lives, used fraudulent documents, is a member of the communist,nazi, or terrorist parties or groups, under US law you cannot take away someone’s passport or citizenship without going through the legal system to prove them innocent or guilty. I have interviewed and documented horrendous cases of people, mostly older men, who were asked to come in for an interview and it turned into a severe interrogation, threatening their lives and their freedom.”

Mr. Alkhanshley shared several stories with the Yemeni American News:

1. A 22 year old Yemeni-American citizen had his first child. He went to the US Embassy in Sanaa to register the birth abroad. When he arrived, the officers put him in a detention center and began integrating him, yelling at him, and demanding that he say his name is different than what is on the documents (I know this person and he didn’t come in with a different name). They then threaten to keep him detained and his family until he agreed to sign a self incriminating statement. With his entire family in tears and so afraid, he had no choice but to sign it.

2. An older man in his late 70’s, who had been a US citizen for over 55 years was in Yemen as a retiree and with his family. He was asked to come into the US embassy. When he arrived, he was harshly detained. He told the Yemeni American News that they somehow had a copy of all his retirement checks and the officers would take it and shove it in his face and said that he would no longer receive one more penny. Could any of us imagine having worked with sweat and blood for over a half a century, 55 years, and someone taking away all your hard work? The person was in tears telling his story and told the Yemeni American News that he wished the officer would have just shot him because he couldn’t stand to be in the interview any longer.

3. Another case involved a person who left to go back to the US and the authorities in the US Embassy in Sana’a told him that the picture of the person in his passport is not him and is someone else.

A Yemeni American committee formed in Michigan, New York, and Washington D.C. of Yemeni-American activists and community leaders met in order to stop these horrific actions by the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a. This committee has met numerous times with regional and state officials such as Congressman John D. Dingell and the U.S. Attorney for Southeastern Michigan to discuss the plight of Yemeni-Americans seeking immigration assistance. The team is also working with attorneys who are helping in this matter in getting back the passports and making efforts to stop this racial profiling.

If you are involved in such a case, please get in touch with the committee at or (313) 574-6979
[1] WikiLeaks Doc :