Banned Together: Machine-Shop Owner Nervous Work Will Grind To A Halt | WBEZ
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Banned Together: Yemeni-American Machine-Shop Owner Says Travel Ban Hurts Trump’s Inroads To Manufacturing Industry

Yemeni-American Aneesa Muthana said President Donald Trump gave her some hope. 

She employs about 40 people at a machine shop in northwest suburban Addison, and Trump’s pledge to boost domestic businesses made her optimistic the nation’s manufacturing industry is poised to return to its glory days. 

She said she couldn’t contain her enthusiasm when Trump met with officials from the National Association of Manufacturers after the election. 

“I even posted about it on my social media page. I was so excited,” Muthana said. “I was like, ‘He’s going to re-boost manufacturing.’ ... Unfortunately, manufacturing going overseas has affected me directly and my business.”

That excitement was before Trump signed an executive order banning immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Yemen. 

Muthana, 47, is a first generation American. After her parents migrated from Yemen, they founded M&M Quality Grinding in 1981. Muthana began working in the shop right away, and she jokes that while some girls had Barbie dolls, she had centerless grinders.

Muthana said she used her experience at her parents’ shop to become owner and president of Pioneer Service, Inc. in 1993, when she was just 23 years old.

She said the company makes small machine parts for the auto and medical industries. 

Muthana said she couldn’t believe Trump signed the executive order.She said she started hearing stories of people she knew being barred from coming home.

“I have people that work for me that voted for Trump. I have people who I love and respect that believe in him, and I respect that, but I know that they don’t believe in the Muslim ban,” she said.

During a Tuesday hearing before a federal appeals court, a Justice Department attorney pushed back against claims the travel ban is a ban on Muslims. The emergency appeals hearing comes after a federal judge blocked the travel ban. A decision on whether the ban will be reinstated is expected this week.

The ban, Muthana said, alienates the businesses Trump wants to boost. 

“If this continued, and the judges didn’t speak up, ...I think a lot of people would be considering leaving this country,” Muthana said. “I think a lot of people and companies would be (saying) ‘enough is enough.’ ”

That’s why Muthana believes the executive order goes against Trump’s pledge to support manufacturing and blue-collar jobs.

“What I do everyday, what my family does, we’re of Yemen descent, (and) a lot of their operators are of Yemen descent,” Muthana said. “If you’re going to treat them like second- or third-class citizens, how is that good for our economy?”

Still, Muthana said the public outcry is a silver lining amidst all the turmoil.

“I think that the blessings that have come with this are much greater than the trials,” Muthana said. “When I travel, I pray at airports, discretely. Now I turn on the TV and you have rows of Muslims praying, you have non-Muslims next to them. … How amazing is that?”

Muthana said business owners have told her they feel unwelcome in their own country and might consider moving their manufacturing companies to Canada or Europe, taking the jobs with them. But she said she isn’t moving.

“I have too many responsibilities to this company, and personally in this country,” she said. “I’m a fighter, I am not going anywhere.”

Editor’s note: WBEZ spoke with Chicago-area residents from each of the seven countries named in President Donald Trump’s travel ban. They spoke about how the uncertainty is affecting their businesses, careers and students. Find all of their stories here.

Patrick Smith is a producer and reporter at WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter at @pksmid.

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