In just one week, a reunion between an Iranian-American student and her grandmother was severed. Vanessa Shah and her family in Georgia had been waiting for the arrival of her grandma on January 28th. After years of filling paperwork, she had finally received an immigration visa to come to the United States – an opportunity of a lifetime, an opportunity for a family to be reunited. Excited with anticipation, Vanessa eagerly awaits for the moment when she can wrap her arms around her grandma in the country that she calls home –the moment in which her two worlds could intertwine and reflect the beauty of what it means to be an Iranian-American.
The next morning there were tears.
Not the kind from overwhelming joy, but the kind that sinks in your heart and leaves you bewildered. Her grandma was forced to return to Iran during her layover in Qatar.
I am so hurt. I am insulted. I feel like a second-class citizen. For the first time in my life, a president’s actions have personally affected me and my family. Everyone wants to travel to the United States, the land of the free where foreigners are welcome with open arms and respect. People love the value Americans have and since Trump has been elected president, I feel as if my American values have been stripped from me.
Lawyer and advocate, Sara Eslami, has dedicated her life and career to defending clients and providing pro-bono legal aid to domestically abused women. America has been her home for nearly three decades. In the coming months, she planned on marrying the man she loves surrounded by the people she loves. But, a majority of her family members can no longer attend her wedding because of the travel visa ban.
United we shall stand together as a nation. Even though this is heartbreaking, I am proud to be an American-Iranian as I watch all the peaceful protests around our nation’s airports. I arrived to the States at six years of age, and America has been my home for nearly twenty-nine years. These peaceful and positive protests give me hope that we can bond together and live without fear.
Another Georgian and an Iranian-American serving in the medical care industry can feel Sara’s disappointment and pain. Her aunt just returned to Iran to take care of her ill grandmother and now may be unable to return and attend her upcoming wedding. Likewise, her two cousins, both surgeons, are now unable to attend or even see their own children in the States – the land they called their home for years before having recently moved.
And Mariam Abaazery, a proud Iranian-American Costa Rican and a recent Masters recipient, is concerned that she will not be able to see her extended family and even her fiancée who is currently in Iran.
In just one week, the lives of Iranians and Iranian-Americans have changed. These stories are not the only ones; they echo the experiences of people nation-wide and across the world. People whose lives have now been paused as they wait to see what the near future holds or chooses to let fall apart.
Are these people truly a threat? Are their joys and their sorrows so different than any other American or simply any other human? As student and teaching assistant Alyson Farzad-Phillips expressed, “Iranians are perhaps one of the most misunderstood nationalities that I can think of. We are not violent, extremists or even anti-American; Iranians are peaceful people, poetic people, emotional people, and hardworking people who want the best for their families. If only Trump could see this; if only America’s mainstream media could see this.”
One week. A 90 day ban.
Yet, this harmful rhetoric has been slowly weaving its way into our society for years. There is no sound justification for time constraints or “vetting.” I will let the legal experts explain the law. I will let the politicians curve and bend their language to analyze the policy. There are facts that reason why this decision was misguided.
But, I am speaking as an individual to the people of the United States – the land of the brave and as we’ve seen through the silver lining of this all, the compassionate.
Iranians and Iranian-Americans are your doctors, lawyers, builders, engineers, artists, writers, actors, musicians, entrepreneurs, professors, advocates, scholars, and most importantly – your friends.
One week. This is the amount of time it took to test what we really stand for as Americans. How we choose to be as a nation from this point on will leave its mark for a lifetime. As the daughter of resilient immigrants and a proud citizen of the United States, I carry within me hope, because that is the true American dream.
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