What Trump’s travel ban means for my US-Iranian-Irish family

‘Our freedom has been foreclosed again by the combination of our national identities’

Joel Hanisek and Roja Fazaeli: for six years we travelled back and forth between the US and Ireland before settling in Dublin

Joel Hanisek and Roja Fazaeli: for six years we travelled back and forth between the US and Ireland before settling in Dublin

 

It has been 12 years since Joel and I met in Galway. I recall the first time I was set to fly over to his native US. It was a few months after we met and I was nervous, anxious to meet my new love, and apprehensive about going through US immigration.

The last time I had felt that nervous was when I left Tehran’s Mehrabad airport in December 2004. I had just undergone months of constant interrogation, threats and surveillance, while my passport had been confiscated. As I walked towards passport control my uncles followed me with worried glances. I left Iran that day not knowing when I would be able to return. I have not been there for 13 years now. I made it back to Ireland. And I eventually, after much interrogation, also made it through the US immigration in Dublin five months later.

Teaching humanity

For six years we travelled back and forth between the US and Ireland before settling in Dublin. For us Ireland is home. The US is home. Iran is home.

We have reconciled our faiths and have found much common ground between my Shia Muslim upbringing and Joel’s formation in the Presbyterian Church (USA). We have conversed night and day about how to bring up our Dublin born daughter, teaching her Persian, teaching her how to love and be kind. Teaching her humanity.

Some Sundays she is convinced to go to church with Joel so she can eat a cookie after the service and some mornings she is glad to lie in with me, while I tell her stories of my childhood in Iran. And Ireland’s grounding influence has fostered that creative culture-building in wonderful ways.

Reductive understandings of religion

In the wake of the January 27th executive order from the US president, we are glad to be together in Dublin. I have no hope of taking my daughter and my husband to Iran any time soon. And for now a trip together to the US is impossible as well. Nationalism is running rampant, and our movement in the world together has been foreclosed again by the combination of our national identities, though in smaller, less dramatic ways than for many whose lives have been fundamentally affected by this action.

For refugees from any one of these seven countries of origin, this order is deadly serious. The persecution provisions made for unspecified minority religions in this order have no parallel in thought given to secular or Muslim compatriots. This discrepancy alone should render moot any appeals to a logic of security based in reductive understandings of religion.

This order is not the best way to advance US national security. It will, however, have a detrimental effect on the human security of many of those affected. With the exception of Iran, all of the countries in Trump’s list are experiencing war or protracted conflict. For those not living immediately in these contexts, but connected by citizenship, birth or other ties to these places, the reality of suddenly being blocked from family, jobs, or schools on the basis of nationality illustrates a simple and fundamental unfairness. This has been addressed and advanced in US legislation, such as the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, as well as international human rights law.

Deeply concerned

We are deeply concerned for our friends and others directly affected by this ban and welcome the stay of proceedings issued by US District Judge Ann Donnelly on January 28th. We suggest that in this short period every effort should be directed to support individuals and organisations, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, who are endeavouring to champion a rule-of-law approach to excesses of executive power.

This executive order is a stark reminder of the immediate and intrusive nature that authoritarian politics can have on family life. This style of brutalist, blanket ban does not allow for any sort of operative ability to engage diversity – the very thing a confident US immigration policy should welcome and seek to foster, as it has historically.

In the recent US inaugural address a great emphasis was placed on the importance of unity. There seems to be either ignorance or wilful abandon of the full motto for the Great Seal of the United States adopted in a 1782 Act of Congress: E Pluribus Unum (Out of many, one). This is also the motto included in the Seal of the President of the United States. That later unity is contingent upon a preexisting diversity – an idea that this ban strenuously works to diminish, and one that our family has chosen to cherish and guard.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.