I live in Austin, Texas. I would like to have some words with the Iranians who live in the United States and want their parents to travel to this country either on a tourist visa or the parents who are getting their permanent residency. These parents looked lost and scared of the traveling issues that are tied to air traveling. My point of sending this letter to you is to let other Iranians, who are thinking of inviting their parents, to be aware of the issues that rise for their parents during the trip, especially the ones who do not speak English.
My 25 year old daughter and I had a trip to Iran this summer. On our way back to the United States, we were approached by a few of older Iranians whose children had applied for their USA permanent residency. They realized that we were flying to Houston, Texas, which was also their destination. They were so happy that they found someone (us) who knew their way around and they could rely on. We were more than happy to help them.
Our flight was through Paris and obviously we needed to change gates when we got to the Paris Airport. Changing gates was not as easy as we thought. We had to ride an airport bus to go to the designated gate and I could imagine the frustration and worry of these Iranians if we or some other Iranians were not there to help them. Before boarding on the plain at the Paris Airport, one Air France employee checked these parents' passports for the proper documentation. The employee asked the parents ( I was interpreting) for their children's address in Houston. To my surprise they didn't have the address or they didn't know where to look for it.
The Air France employee told me to tell them that a Houston address is required before they are allowed to board on the plane. The parents only had phone numbers, and the employee wouldn't accept it. Finally I asked the Air France employee that what they were going to do. Do they want to keep these people at the airport?! Through her manager, finally the employee entered some information in the computer and let them board the plane.
I helped them find their seats and checked on them regularly to make sure they were okay. Then I filled out the custom forms for them. At the Houston Airport, We all went together towards the immigration lines. Unfortunately we had to stand in two different lines because of our residency status. I told them that I would wait for them after I went through the immigration. I could see the worries in their faces but I assured them everything was going to be okay.
When I passed the immigration stand, I asked another immigration officer if I could wait for those Iranians to interpret for them. He said that I was not allowed to wait at the stand through which the parents were coming, but I could wait at the end of the hall. He also mentioned there were two officers who spoke Farsi. I decided to wait for them regardless of the fact that they had someone to speak Farsi. I felt like being a security factor for those parents and I wanted them to see me when they were coming out of the immigration stand.
Meanwhile my daughter went to get our luggage and I told her I was going to stay up there to help the parents. I waited for about 30 minutes and I didn't see them come through. I approached the immigration officer again and made sure that there were two officers who spoke Farsi. He said that they did. He also said that the parents will be taken to another room to be interviewed.
At this point I realized there was nothing else I could do and my daughter was waiting for me at the luggage area. I felt bad for leaving because I had told the parents that I would wait for them, but the officer would not let me to go to their immigration stand and tell them that I was leaving. The officer assured me that those parents were going to be okay.
I hope everything went well for them after-wards and I hope that the immigration officers paged their children, just to help the parents to feel less anxious.
This experience made me write to you hoping that other Iranians read this letter and think more thoroughly before they ask their parents to just get on the plane and come to the USA. It is not that easy!! I felt sorry for these parents and the emotional hardship they had to go through.
I have some suggestions to the Iranians who are thinking of having their parents in the USA:
1. The best thing to do is to go to Iran and accompany their parents. I understand that this choice is not always easy.
2. Wait until a friend is going to Iran and make reservations for their parents with the same flight that the friend is traveling back to the USA. This way, the parents know before hand that there is going to be someone to help instead of looking for someone at the airport on their own.
3. Write the complete information about their address in the USA, phone numbers, cell phone numbers, etc.,.. in case the parent must travel alone, so that the airline employees can help the parents.
4. I heard that airlines have some services regarding the people who need assistance. So check with them and see how much assistance they offer.
Please do not assume that there is always going to be some other Iranians to help with the language. What if there isn't any on a particular flight?