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The word brings me cold sweat.
As an Iranian, obtaining visa for any trip was part of the package. Turkey excluded. Reza Shah had made a deal with Turkey to waive the visa.
Back in 1999, I traveled to multiple countries within 3 months to apply for US visa. Except for last one, I was painfully rejected for no apparent reason.
The last attempt granted me a single-entry student visa. A visa that got voided the moment I passed through US immigration at LAX. A visa that would not let me go back and see my family because I was always afraid of the ordeal to secure another one especially after 9/11.
14 years of my life was spent to get the US passport. All these years, my motivation was strong: You will not need visa anymore when you are a US citizen.
This week, my equation was turned upside down:
HR 158 was introduced: Visa Waiver Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act.
Improvement means to make something better: If backed by the Senate and president, then the new law will bar Iranian-Americans from a 38-nation visa waiver programme that allows visits to signatory countries for up to 90 days without a visa.
How is introducing this act called an improvement?
Reviewing the history of terrorist attacks, there is no Iranians involved.
Reviewing the culture of Iranians in America, they are focused on: looking glamorous, constituting a good portion of successful medical doctors, contributing to science and engineering as students graduate from ” free”, top Iranian universities and end up in research labs in the US working hard for $1500 a month, and being great businessmen!
Mainstream proof: Shahs of sunset. While that show infuriates me at times, at least it establishes a point for general public: Party people who are not religious fanatics by any stretch. Hearing Persian, that’s what comes to mind.
Where in this equation do you see any connection to terrorism? How does one justify this act as an improvement considering the profile of Iranian- Americans?
This is an old story.
Iranians had nothing to do with 9/11 while the Saudis supplied 15 out of 19 hijackers of that bloody Tuesday. Yet, it was Iranian student visas that get harder and harder to obtain. In 2001, my university mate Osama, an electrical engineering student easily could still fly back to Saudi to see his family for Christmas vacation. It was me who ended up in frozen Philadelphia to spend Christmas holiday with a friend because my single-entry visa would not let me go back and visit my family in Iran.
While I strongly believe in tightening the security of the country, diverting the attention by restricting Iranian-Americans is a wrong move. Wasting taxpayers’ dollars and disappointing the second largest immigrant population in the US suggests certain presidential candidates lack competency.
As a civilian, I have no idea what the agenda behind this act is but I can guarantee you that it is a misuse of the word improvement.
For this reason, I urge you, another civilian reading this piece to contact your representatives and express your opinion. There is a petition to sign:
Don’t let the restrictions of visa come back to the life of Iranian- Americans especially kids when it adds no value to our security in the United States of America.