Discriminatory Visa Wavier Bill Targets Iranian-Americans

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Written by Azadeh Tabazadeh

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/proposed-visa-wavier-bill-h-r-158-discriminate-other-marked-azadeh?trk=pulse_spock-articles

The proposed Visa Wavier Bill (H. R. 158) will discriminate against Iranian-Americans and other “marked” dual-nationals

The photo shown depicts a protest in 1979 where a group of Americans were demanding that all Iranians should be deported because of the extreme acts of the newly established government of Iran—more specifically the “Islamic Republic of Iran.” The events that triggered hatred toward Iranians were the seizing of the American embassy in Tehran and taking 52 U.S. diplomats and citizens hostage for 444 days.

Is it fair or reasonable to punish the citizens of an entire nation for the extreme actions of their irrational governments or extremist groups who “uninvitedly” reside in their countries while inflicting acts of terror upon them and the rest of the world?

Although the U.S. government did not deport Iranians or Iranian-Americans in 1979 and early 1980s, it became exceedingly difficult for Iranians who had courageously fled Iran to be granted visas to enter United States.

Below see an excerpt from my memoir where I describe an act of kindness extended to my brother and me by an African-American diplomat at the U.S. embassy in Madrid. He took a chance of granting us visas to come to America in 1982 after we had fled Iran. My brother now owns a business that employs more than 500 people and I became a Ph. D Scientist. By all measures, I would say that the U.S. diplomat in Madrid made the right choice by granting us visas. There are many success stories likes ours, but politicians seem to mainly focus on a few terrorist acts and their strategies of combating them to gain sentiments and win more votes. I can only speak for Iranians, but it is a fact that no Iranian or Iranian-American has been involved in any act of terrorism outside of Iran, yet Iranians and Iranian-Americans have been singled out in the proposed Visa Wavier Bill (H. R. 158).

Visa Wavier Bill (H. R. 158)

This Bill, it seems, is pretty much in accord with Donald Trump’s vision for America, where innocent, hard-working American citizens are profiled solely because they were born in a “wrong” country. It’s disturbing that neither Donald Trump nor the Visa Wavier Bill states the name of “the country” where most of the terrorists have indeed originated from. I will not name this country, as all of you, including the politicians, know which country in the Middle East breeds and supports terrorism the most, but for some reason this clearly known fact is something that no politician is willing to talk about or address.

Please write to your congressmen/women and senators to let them know that this Bill is anti-American and that you do not believe in discriminating against people based on their place of birth. The Bill has just passed congress and you can help by using the link below to have your voices heard.

Petition opposing the Visa Wavier Bill

Thank you for your support.

Azadeh Tabazadeh

 

An excerpt from my memoir: The Sky Detective  (Madrid, Sept. 1982)

The next morning, we meet Sharon and Mr. Banki in front of the American embassy at four o’clock. Already, a bustling crowd of mostly Iranians is lined up behind the closed gate.

By noon, not a single Iranian has walked out of the embassy victorious, smiling, showing off his or her approval visa stamp. But Sharon keeps insisting, “Everything is fine. Trust me; you’ll get your visas in no time. Don’t worry.”

My only hope is that no other Iranian is standing alongside a persistent, attractive American chaperone. We’re next in line when a middle-aged black man in a full suit and tie flags us over to his booth. We approach and present him with our passports.

“I am very sorry, kids. I can’t grant visas to Iranians.”

His throaty voice echoes in my ears as I swallow and watch his hand reach for that infamous rejection stamp. The thought of spending even one more day in Madrid brings tears to the back of my eyes.

“Just wait. Wait a second. Hold on, please,” Sharon interrupts, and the man stops reaching for the stamp. “Come on now. I know these kids. They’re good kids, and they’ll be staying with me. All they want to do is to come to the United States for a few months to learn English. That’s all. I have signed them up to take ESL classes at a community college in Los Angeles.” She continues to talk as she hands him college registration forms.

He examines the papers, takes off his thick, black-framed glasses, leans forward on his chair, and stabs his desk with a pencil a few times. Then he glances up as I look down and collapse into tears.

“Young lady, why are you crying?” he asks, staring at me as though he can read the thoughts of despair imprinted on my forehead.

“I don’t want to live in Madrid. I don’t speak any Spanish. I don’t know how to go back to Iran. We have friends in America, but we have no one in Madrid.” I choke up and shed more tears.

“Well,” he says with a sigh, rubbing his forehead. “In that case, I will grant you a six-month student visa, but you have to promise me to leave the United States before your visas expire.”

“I’ll promise you, I mean, we—my brother, my cousin, and I—we all promise you. Thank you, sir,” I say quickly, my heart almost bursting out of my chest.

“You’re most welcome,” he says, opening each passport and punching in the approval stamp. “Now, go on, young lady. Pack your bags. Good luck to you, your brother, and your cousin.”

I look at him and smile. He sticks his thumb up in the air, and I do the same while laughing in my head: that gesture in my culture is equivalent to giving an American the middle finger.

Outside the embassy, Sharon hugs me tightly as I cry on her shoulder. “This is unbelievable, just unbelievable. I’m so happy for you all. We have to celebrate tonight,” Sharon says, her light hazel eyes sparkling like jewels in the bright sunlight.

“We can’t, Sharon. We have other plans,” Mr. Banki objects like he did last time, and we part shortly thereafter.

That night, I go to the telephone house to call home. The phone rings a few times before Baba picks up, and we exchange jubilant greetings.

“Baba, today is the best day of my life. Thank you for sending me with Jahan.”
“I have no regrets, Azadeh. You were right, and I was wrong. Have a nice journey to America. Our thoughts are with you. Good-bye, my lovely daughter.”

“Good-bye, Baba jan.” I hang up, feeling a rush of relief to have finally won Baba’s approval.

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