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Homeland Security

What friends?
Right or wrong, Iranians who were refused entry into the U.S. must have been deemed undesirable or a threat to the security of Americans



G. Rahmanian
August 21, 2006

This is in response to "How to make enemies" by Saeid Bozorgui-Nesbat in which he shared his friend's story and the way he was treated by the U.S. Homeland Security officers. After the usual grumbling about the U.S. policies and chastising the U.S. government, he, as is common among many Iranians, mixed this incident with issues such as Hamas in Palestine and the infamous prison in Iraq and a few others that somehow he believes are all related to his friend's misfortune.

While at it, Nesbat could have at least said something about the rights and the misfortune of the common criminals as well. But that does not seem to bother him at all. Who cares about such mundane issues when the highly respectable alumni of Sharif University are in trouble. In my view, many of the issues he has raised are irrelavent to this incident and should have been avoided. I would rather stick to what concerns his friend, Mohammad, and other Iranians who were not allowed to enter the U.S.

Here I am not trying to belittle or ignore any of the issues Nesbat mentions. After reading his letter carefully, however, I have this feeling that he simply does not care about these problems. He only uses them to add some weight to his facile argument. Now, let's see where the real problem lies. U.S. embassies and consulates issue about seventy-three types of visas to citizens of other countries. B1/B2-visitor for business and pleasure- visa is one of them.

If we consider B1 and B2 separately then the number gets much larger. The Department of Homeland Security has a very comprehensive website explaining all the details related to such visas. There are also contact numbers that you can call and talk to an agent in case of emergencies or send faxes and ask questions concerning how to get a visa or other related issues. There is also a number in Washington, D.C. you can call. If Nesbat or other interested individuals could download the website, thers is a section titled, "Coming to America-Getting Your Visitors Visa."

In that section under the part that says, "What is a visa?" you can read the following paragraph:

"The visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to a port-of-entry in the United States, such as a(n) international airport, a seaport or a land border crossing. At the port-of-entry, an officer of the Department of Homeland Security decides whether to allow you to enter and how long you can stay."

This is very clear and to the point. Obtaining a visa does not automatically guarantee entry into the United States. As far as I know, most other countries have the same regulation in regard to visas issued by their respective consulates and embassies.

Also looking at question number 35 of the Nonimmigrant Visa Application form provided on the same website you can read, "Has Your U.S. Visa Ever Been Cancelled or Revoked?" This question implies that it is possible for a visa to be revoked after it has been issued by a consulate or an embassy. Without any precedents, there would be no need for this question.

It might prove comforting to read the U.S. Homeland Security Website and find out that the regulations which are in there are not aimed at humiliating Iranians. They concern citizens of all other countries as well.

Having lived in the U.S. for some time and, as his letter indicates, becoming a nturalized citizen of the United States, Nesbat must have realized by now that whether one is a member of the elite of a country or a financially deprived citizen of a poor country coming to the U.S. in search of better livelihood, they should be treated equally and by the same law. No individual should stand above the law merely based on his social status. Perhaps Nesbat, in his zeal to solicit sympathy for his friend, has forgotten that even some heads of states need to apply for visas before coming to the U.S.

Also I would like to remind Nesbat of the fact that the world is glutted with highly educated people who cannot find the jobs they like. I am saying this because Nesbat seems to be under this culturally misplaced and anachronous impression that somehow the alumni of Sharif university deserve special treatment because they are, as he calls them, "cream of the crop." Had Nesbat bothered to take a look at number 41 of the Nonimmigrant Visa Application, perhaps he would not have been as enraged as he seems to be. Number 41 in the application is where the applicant puts his signature and is extremely important. It reads as follows:

"I certify that I have read and understood all the questions set forth in this application and the answers I have furnished on this form are true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief. I understand that any false or misleading statement may result in the permanent refusal of a visa or denial of entry into the United States. I understand that possession of a visa does not automatically entitle the bearer to enter the United States of America upon arrival at a port of entry if he or she is found inadmissible."

Applicants read the above statement and sign the application bearing in mind that giving any false information may entail unpleasant consequences. It is self-explanatory and anyone reading it can understand its significance. The fact that the final decision is made at the port of entry is also clearly stated. Cultural or individual differences may cause misreading of the laws and regulations of other countries, however, having this statement at the end of the application should be taken seriously.

Right or wrong, Iranians who were refused entry into the U.S. must have been deemed undesirable or a threat to the security of Americans. Every government has the right to protect its citizens the way they know best. Being treated as a criminal is understandable in a situation where an individual has been found to have given false or misleading information to the authorities. This is for the Department of Homeland Security to decide.

Watching from the sidelines uninformed and out of touch with the realities of the exceedingly strained situation at hand, it would only be unwise to ground one's judgement on sheer emotional attachment to someone or something. If I am not mistaken, fingerprinting of Iranian citizens is nothing new. I believe it started in 1996. Later, and after 9/11 citizens of other countries were required to undergo fingerprinting and have their mug shots taken.

As Nesbat has, correctly, poited out in his letter, the Homeland Security officers who handcuffed the Iranians and took them to jail were doing their job. Most probably, they could not keep them at the airport for security reasons. It has been known that certain individuals, while in custody, have escaped from airports around the world. Keeping about a hundred Iranians and perhaps a bigger number of citizens of other countries at an airport involves great risk that the U.S. government is not willing to take at the moment.

The officers at the airports are given lists of undesirable elements who are not supposed to set foot on the U.S. soil. These undesirable elements may include mobsters, common criminals or the elite of a country. Security officers have to follow orders given to them by their superiors. Dealing with a vast number of cases daily, they are not given much information as to the nature of the intelligence that leads to such decisions. And they are not accountable to those who are refused entry into the U.S.

Nesbat could have tried to be more objective instead of maliciously accusing the U.S. government of purposefully antagonizing Iranians. According to a recent article by an American journalist, in the state of California alone there are more than 600,000 (six hundred thousand) Iranians. In the past twenty-seven years, the U.S. and Canadian authorities have been exceptionally generous toward Iranian citizens who have chosen to call those countries their homes. Their humane immigration and naturalization policies have helped hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers from Iran to build much better lives than they could have back home.

Nesbat wrote something about enticing Iranians to come to the U.S. which I did not fully understand. If by enticing he means giving visas, then he is being audaciously unreasonable. The U.S. government authorities did not go knocking on these people's doors offering them visas and begging them to hold their reunion in California. They were granted visas after they applied for them. Since these individuals seem to be extremely intelligent they should have known getting a visa for a country and entering that country are two separate things. Based on my experience, it is customary for consulates and embassies to give out information regarding important matters including the ones I have mentioned above.

Nesbat seems to be worried about the U.S. losing friends. He should rest assured that his fears are unfounded. I only hope this is not the case of the Iranian proverbial cockroach falling into a puddle. Comment

To G. Rahmanian
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