Iranians guilty until proven innocent
By David N. Rahni
April 30, 2002
In just a matter of days, a grass root protest
petition against the passage of the U.S. Senate H.R. 3525: "Enhanced Border
Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002", has attracted thousands of signatories
and growing by the minute. Specifically, the one million Americans of Iranian descent
have expressed their displeasure to that aspect of the Bill that deprives them the
right to have their parents and close relatives visiting them periodically here from
their ancestor's land.
The petition, addressed to President George W. Bush, the cabinet members and nembers
of the House and the Senate, states: "Whereas we continue to unequivocally remain
behind you [Mr. President] in battling out any despicable terrorist acts against
the United States of America and the Principles for which this great Nation stands,
be it graciously acknowledged, nonetheless, that as patriotically proud, tax paying
and contributing Americans of Iranian descent, we submit to you our displeasure with
grave concern regarding the passage of the Senate H.R. 3525: Enhanced Border Security
and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002."
It is believed that if this bill becomes law by presidential endorsement, it would
prohibit the issuance of tourist, business, student and other types of non-immigrant
visas to residents of a few countries including Iran, the government of which are
on the terrorist sponsoring states list of the US State Department. This means that
immediate family members of over one million Iranian Americans can NOT, as in the
past, travel to visit their American family members in the U.S.
Many in the Persian American community believe this bill not only applies a blanket
mistreatment of millions of Iranians with a suspicion, i.e., "guilty unless
proven innocent" simply because of their country of birth or the government
that currently rules it, but it more significantly places an immense hardship on
the shoulders of the American families who would very much like to have their parents
and close relatives here for short visits.
Ironically, many of such Americans can not freely travel to their native motherland
either due to the fear of political charges there. Everyone in this community, nonetheless,
agrees there should be a stringent screening of visa applications that does apply
to all travelers entering the US regardless of their country of origin. Some even
go further by saying it is paradoxical that none of the despicable terrorist activities
in the US was committed by a culprit carrying an Iranian passport, but rather by
those other nationals whose governments do remain among so-called US "allies".
Even though there have been sporadic number of Iranians who have immigrated to the
US since the late 19th century, it is only since the late 70's when due to socio-political
changes in Iran when massive number of them entered the US as immigrants--many returning
after having completed their advanced education here earlier. Estimated at nearly
one million strong, it is recognized as one of the most educated, affluent, law abiding
and well assimilated recent immigrant communities (substantially well above national
average according to the US Census, an MIT and other independent Reports).
Iran, formerly called Persia (circa. 1930's), is a culturally rich and ancient country
with tremendous contributions in the arts, sciences and technology, literature, etc.
to the world civilization. Upon closer examination of every sector of our society,
one would easily recognize the active participation of modern Iranian Americans as
university professors and researchers, artists, business entrepreneurs, government
staff, and health professional including 30,000 physicians. Some estimate the annual
contributions of this community to the US economy to stand at no less than $100 billion.
It is, however, very fascinating to observe the rapid
development of voter registration, pluralization and articulation of the community
at-large aspirations, coalition building not only among the Iranian Americans of
diverse socio-political and religious backgrounds, but also with other immigrant
and mainstream political institutions and full participation in the American political
process, to become one major positive outcome of the whole debate.
Moreover, unless this legislation is modified to remove those aspect of it that negatively
impacts the lives of Iranian-American, it is anticipated that the number of permanent
residence immigration applications to petition for parents and siblings will increase
dramatically, thereby creating a gridlock in the Immigration and Naturalization Service's
processing system, that has not thus far been necessary since such relatives could,
with ample security scrutiny, travel to the US for short visiting purposes.
David N. Rahni is President Emeritus-in-Residence of the Persian
Watch Center. He is a professor of chemistry at Pace University in New
York. He also serves as an adjunct professor in environmental law and dermatology.
A terrible price to pay for a "feel good" ban on Iranians wishing
to visit the U.S.
By Gary Sick
A lot of
But no real action against U.S. visa restrictions
By Behrooz Parsa
On efforts to ban Iranians from traveling to the U.S.
By Katayoon Hadizadeh
Persian Watch Center
Iranian-American Anti-Discrimination Council
By David N. Rahni
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