In June 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) confirmed the Trump administration’s travel ban as the definitive law of the land. For many, the ruling was expected yet disappointing.
Since the first Executive Order (EO) went into effect back in 2017, visa applicants from the banned countries along with their attorneys have witnessed its devastating results, including unnecessary family separations, unjust visa denials, lost jobs and careers, U.S. businesses handicapped in recruiting top talent, and an opaque process of background and security checks. Although recently there appears to be some progress in how requests for waivers are adjudicated, for far too many, the uncertainty surrounding the process has caused unnecessary emotional and financial hardship.
I believe the ban is antithetical to American values and our foundational principles. As an Iranian-American, let me share the example of Iran, one of the countries listed in the EO, as a window into the cruelty of the travel ban policy. By all accounts, Iranians live under one of the most repressive and corrupt governments in the region. Furthermore, the United States, in particular California, is home to the largest Iranian community outside of Iran. Considering the deep connections of the Iranian diaspora with the world they left behind after the 1979 Islamic takeover in Iran, the harshness of the EO can be clearly seen when viewed from the Iranian-American vantage point.
The argument against the EO has always been that collective punishment is counterproductive. Most recently, for many Iranian citizens, the enforcement of the EO has become a matter of life or death. In November 2019, Iranians rose up in unprecedented numbers against their tyrannical rulers in nationwide peaceful demonstrations. Unfortunately, they were met with brute force and live ammunition. U.S. government estimates that the Iranian authorities murdered at least 1,500 peaceful protestors – including women and children – and have imprisoned at least 7,000 persons who are undoubtedly subject to torture.
Amnesty International says Iranian authorities carried out a “wide-scale clamp down designed to instill fear and prevent anyone from speaking out about what happened. Iran’s authorities are…arresting thousands of protesters as well as journalists, human rights defenders and students to stop them from speaking out about Iran’s ruthless repression.” The United Nations has similar accounts of what did and is still happening in Iran.
Human rights advocacy groups are now asking the Trump Administration to at least modify the EO as it relates to Iran. Daniel Shapiro who served under the Obama Administration and Mark Dubowitz, chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and an Iran sanction expert, wrote in a joint op-ed, “As a further measure to debunk the regime’s claims and proving our support for the people, the Trump administration should consider ending the blanket travel ban on Iranian citizens.”
The travel ban is cruel and unnecessary. As the example of Iran shows, the travel ban is preventing people from seeking protection they desperately need and keeping families apart. We must continue to fight against it for all those impacted, their families, American businesses, and our communities.