Iranian Americans: Now Second-Class Citizens?

Vector Passports with map isolated on white background. EPS10 opacity
Vector Passports with map isolated on white background. EPS10 opacity

When I first heard of the H.R. 158 bill, I laughed it off. No way that this would happen. I mean, we are living in 2016. We have cell phones that speak to us, we are the time of New Age mindfulness, we have Malala. No way, this bill is going to be taken seriously by anyone, let alone a great sum of our educated office holders.

Then I see updates from NIAC, the National Iranian American Council, that the H.R. 158 Bill, the Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act and Terrorism Travel Prevention Act was passed in the House of Representatives. Suddenly, this wasn't a joke anymore and my nonchalant smile earlier was smacked right off my face.

I could continue discussing the many wrongs of this bill from the perspective of someone who is an American born citizen. Yet, I have realized that our nationality of birth is not as relevant as we may have perceived it to be, because the prejudice that pervades our humanity speaks volumes.

I consider myself a strong proponent of open dialogue, but what is alarming is that there has been little public debate and exposure regarding the consequences of this bill. Sure, if you keep up with the news, you may have heard about it. And by keep up, I mean if you did your thorough Google search, because major news media outlets have barely expressed the outrage regarding the bill.

Why is this not being taken as seriously? Well, I have my theories. Maybe it is because its consequences negatively affect only a minority of the population. Maybe it is because we are distracted by the saturated media. Maybe it is because it has become a habit that we only act upon things when it has become too late. You know when you go to the dentist and they say, you need to brush better? Well, it's kind of like waiting until you need that root canal.

To reduce political matters to a silly metaphor may appear as an understatement, but how else do we as a society become informed of serious problems? Does it take images of death? Does it take images of violence? I write as a human, and nothing is more painful than watching unnecessary harm and injustice. Nothing is more dangerous than the lack of awareness and proper discussion.

Considering the heightened state of fear we live in, I can understand why some individuals try to reason the benefits of such a bill. But, let's just remove the veil of fear for a moment and think about what we are actually allowing with its passage.

I was born in the United States. I sang my Pledge of Allegiance. I played with you on the monkey bars. I attended school and graduated from a university. I have laughed with you and provided you a shoulder to cry on. Yet, if this bill were to officially take effect, I would be categorized in a box different than you. You can visit your family in Italy over the summer or take that trip to France, but if I wanted to join you, I might have to apply for a visa even though I am an American citizen.

If I wanted to visit my family in Iran after many years, I would be treated differently. Because my father was simply born in Iran, I would be treated differently. And suddenly, everything human we share in common -- our joy, our pains, our dreams and our failures -- become somewhat obsolete.

We live in an age of tremendous potential. Our generation has an abundance of information at their fingertips, and I have seen how accepting we can be. On a daily basis, I see mostly open-minded behavior from peers and strangers. Yet, it seems that we have been backpedaling lately when it comes to social justice. And I must ask, why?

The answer must be found within ourselves, but the truth is that this bill is completely unconstitutional and belittles American values. I know as a society we can do better. And if we don't, then its jokes are on us, because we are setting the precedent for the future.