Rejected: What it Means to Be a Part of the Muslim Ban
By Nadia Iranpour, Advocacy Intern, Amnesty International USA
On June 26th, 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled to uphold the Muslim Ban instituted by the Trump administration; a ban which Amnesty International has said“has no place in a country that claims to value human rights.”When the news first came, I stared at the alert on my computer screen and I blinked away tears as I felt my phone begin to buzz frantically in my pocket — without looking I knew it would be my mother.
As I answered the phone and heard her dismayed confusion, I felt simultaneously distraught, heartbroken, and — most of all — rejected. For me and my family, the decision from the court was personal. I have an aunt and two uncles on my mother’s side in Iran — they have been going through the application process for U.S. green cards for the past eight years. They are jovial and kind people, embodying the Iranian spirit of humor, hospitality, and humility. My aunt is the youngest of seven and very light-hearted. She and her young son have been waiting to leave the country after she ended an abusive marriage. My aunt hopes to bring her young son to the United States to make sure that nothing hinders his prospects, the way having a divorced mother in Iran can. My two uncles are practically twins and spend much of their time working in construction in Iran. They are personable and thoughtful people that want to be permanently reunited to their other siblings. My grandmother is a duel citizen and has previously traveled between Iran and the United States every year for extended periods of time to see all her children and grandchildren. This exhausting but deeply rewarding ritual has been going on for many years even though it has become more and more difficult as she gets older. She should have the opportunity to peacefully enjoy the family she built in one place.
My family in Iran is not religious and refuses to take part in any of the religious norms of the country. This puts them in a spotlight they do not desire, as the Shia majority holds significant power over all government institutions. This is a pertinent reason of why they must leave, and soon. My mother and her three other siblings in the U.S. are all able to sponsor our remaining family and one of my uncles here has already officially volunteered. They filled out every form, patiently waded through a complex bureaucracy, and paid high fees for several years. My aunt and uncles wait in our increasingly unpredictable home country, wait to be reunited, wait to be American.
I immigrated to the United States when I was one-year old from my birthplace of Shiraz, Iran. After traveling to the U.S. and ultimately receiving a green card in Missouri, my father moved us to Colorado because of his love of the mountains. In Colorado, there was more than one occurrence of racist backlash — of people not understanding my background and choosing to respond with cruelty and violence rather than compassion and curiosity. However, those moments only make up a small percentage of my experiences here and despite them, I felt so free. Free to pursue my goals and dreams. Free to be myself.
My extended family has been able to start businesses and contribute to the community, my cousins have been able to pursue higher education, and I have been able to work toward my Master’s degree. All we desire is a chance to contribute to the place we are so fortunate to call home. All we desire is to belong.
These days I feel incredibly dejected, as some in my country would be rid of me if they could be. The more I look around, the more I see signs of the growing nationalism and dysfunction like the country I originated from. The only thing that prevents us from becoming like all the countries we decry is consistent vigilance. Vigilance against hate; vigilance against bigotry. Now is not the time to sit back and despair. If my family and I can stay focused on speaking out against these policies in this increasingly difficult historical moment — so can yours.
This ban will not only force apart families like my own and those who are seeking refuge here but will also serve to increase ill-feeling toward the U.S. worldwide. For every story like mine, where loved ones are left behind, and time apart becomes increasingly miserable and damaging, there will also be stories of increased resentment toward our country. This doesn’t have to be the case. There are smarter policies that can ensure the safety of our immigration and visitor visa programs without keeping whole nations of people out. The United States I know is beautiful, diverse, and incredibly worth believing in. Worth fighting for. I implore you to stress this to your elected leaders, so they may put pressure on the Trump Administration to revoke this terrible, needless policy. When we betray the poor and huddled masses yearning to be free, we betray ourselves and everything we have ever stood for.