In Iran, Shock and Bewilderment Over Trump Visa Crackdown – The New York Times
2017/01/30 Leave a comment
Laying out the impact on people and families (article was written before the weekend chaos):
TEHRAN — Families, businesspeople, athletes and tourists from seven countries in the Middle East and Africa found their travel plans — and even their futures — in a state of suspension on Friday after President Trump signed an executive order temporarily barring thousands from obtaining visas to travel to the United States.
The order is expected to freeze almost all travel to the United States by citizens from the Muslim-majority countries of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for at least 90 days. Three of those countries are considered sponsors of terrorism (Iran, Sudan and Syria), and three are designated countries of concern (Libya, Somalia and Yemen).
Passport-holders from those countries, who have American visas but are outside the United States, will not be permitted to return.
“We only want to admit those who will support our country and love deeply our people,” Mr. Trump said on Friday before signing the order at the Pentagon. “We will never forget the lessons of 9/11, nor the heroes who lost their lives at the Pentagon.”
(The 19 hijackers implicated in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack came from Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. None of those countries will be subject to what Mr. Trump described as “new vetting measures.”)
During the 90-day period, the Trump administration will assess if the foreign governments on the list are providing enough information about citizens seeking visas to enable the United States to assess whether they pose a terrorism risk. If the governments do not comply, they will be given 60 days to do so; failing that, their citizens will be barred from entering the United States.
Government reaction to the order has been cautious. But there is little doubt that the demand for information will be a challenge for Iran, which sends far more people to the United States each year, around 35,000, than any other country on the list.
While Iran willingly allows its citizens to travel to the United States, it is ideologically opposed to sharing information with Washington. But if it does not, many of its citizens will be cut off from visiting relatives who are among the estimated one million Iranian-Americans living in America.
The visa ban will provide an early indication of where relations between Tehran and the Trump administration are headed, one analyst said.
“Trump will regard the Iranian reaction as a test,” said Farshad Ghorbanpour, who is close to the government of President Hassan Rouhani. “If Iran doesn’t comply, they won’t do so either on other issues. We will see in 30 days.”
Another analyst doubted the government would comply with the order.
“We are not obliged to give information about our citizens to the Trump administration,” said Hamidreza Taraghi, considered a hard-liner. “Such a move would be unjustifiable.”
In the United States, Americans of Iranian descent expressed shock and dismay at news of Mr. Trump’s impending policy change, and were particularly concerned about their relatives and friends in Iran.
Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, a Washington-based advocacy group, said many Iranian citizens with valid green cards and American visas were distraught. Those outside the United States are fretting they will not be allowed in, and those already in the country fear they will not be able to leave, even temporarily, because they will be barred from returning.
“There is a sense of bewilderment, as well as a sense of injustice,” over why Iran was even included on the list of targeted countries, Mr. Parsi said. No Iranian has been accused of an attack on the American homeland. By contrast, he said, the Sept. 11 attackers included citizens from countries which are not on the list — and “the United States has produced more ISIS fighters than Iran has.”
Iran’s most popular actress, Taraneh Alidoosti, announced on Twitterthat she was canceling her trip to the Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles on Feb. 26, after reports that Mr. Trump was about to sign the sweeping executive order.
Ms. Alidoosti plays a leading role in ‘‘The Salesman,’’ directed by the acclaimed Iranian director Asghar Farhadi and nominated for best foreign film. She almost certainly could have obtained a visa as a ‘‘culturally unique artist,’’ but said she no longer felt like making the trip.
“This is not about me or the Academy Awards, it’s about having a discussion about this decision,” Ms. Alidoosti said. “This is such a bizarre ban, it is uprooting people’s lives in ways not imaginable.”
In 2015, according to the Department of Homeland Security, a total of 35,266 nonimmigrant visas were granted to Iranians to enter the United States, compared with 21,381 for Iraq; 16,010 for Syria; 5,549 for Yemen; 4,792 for Sudan; 2,879 for Libya and 359 for Somalia.
As there is no American embassy or consulate in Iran, Iranians must travel to Ankara, Turkey, Dushanbe in Tajikistan or to Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, to apply for a visa. The State Department says that more than 40 percent of all applications are rejected. There are numerous agencies in Iran and other countries that mediate and assist Iranians seeking appointments.