Open Letter to Congressman Gresham Barrett on His Plans to Deport All Iranian Visa Holders

Your bill would label entire groups of people terrorists based on their nationality and have them summarily deported. It can't get more un-American than that.
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Congressman Barrett,

The National Iranian American Council and the Iranian-American community is outraged by your plan to reintroduce legislation mandating the deportation of thousands of Iranian students and workers who came to this country legally in search of education, liberty, and a better way of life. The Stop Terrorist Entry Program (STEP) Act would make discrimination against Iranians into United States law. There are over one million Americans of Iranian descent woven into the diverse fabric of this nation through family and community -- your legislation would divide and fracture these families and communities in the name of false security.

Iranian-Americans are a part of what makes this country great. Iranian-Americans are among the most highly educated, affluent, and productive immigrant communities in the United States. According to one study, Iranian-Americans contribute over $400 billion to the US economy annually.

Under the vision you offer, such important and inspiring figures as Christiane Amanpour, tennis great Andre Agassi, and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar would have never called the United States home, nor would the United States benefit from the innumerable contributions to medicine, engineering, science, and academia that Iranian-Americans made in the last half-century.

Many Iranian-Americans came to this country to escape repression at home. We left the country we called home in search of a better, more secure future free from social, political, and religious repression. In the years that have ensued, we have established ourselves and our families in communities across the country and built new connections between Iranians and Americans. Now, thirty years later, Iranians face a new wave of repression at home, and people all over the world have witnessed Iranians stand up for their rights against a brutal government.

Perhaps you are unaware of all of this. Because if your bill were to pass, it would expel innocent people who came here on valid visas and deny opportunities for Iranians to seek refuge in the US at a time when the rest of the free world is asking themselves how they best can help the people of Iran.

And, of course, your bill would do nothing to help secure America.

You have said you are reintroducing the STEP Act in response to the Fort Hood shooting and the Christmas Day attempt to blow up an airplane over Detroit. We hope you recognize that no Iranian has been involved in any of these attacks, or the 9/11 terrorist attacks for that matter. The individuals who carried out the Fort Hood attack and the Christmas day attempt -- an American Army major and a Nigerian national -- would not have been affected in the slightest by the sweeping provisions offered in your bill.

Iranian-Americans share with all Americans a commitment to keeping our country safe. We also share a commitment to protecting the principles on which this country was founded -- principles of justice, liberty, and equality under the law. Your proposal discriminates against individuals who are in this country legally, based on nothing more than their family's place of origin. Instead of celebrating the opportunity to inspire a new generation of world leaders and to imbue them with positive feelings toward the United States, your bill would label entire groups of people terrorists based on their nationality and have them summarily deported.

It can't get more un-American than that.

Shortly before you assumed office in the House of Representatives, a memorial was unveiled near the Capitol Building in remembrance of one of these dark moments in our history: the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Enshrined within that memorial is a quote from Senator Daniel Inouye that reads "The lesson learned must remain as a grave reminder of what we must not allow to happen again to any group." Congressman, we urge you to walk down from the Capitol Building, visit that memorial, and reconsider your ill-advised legislation.

Trita Parsi, Ph.D.
President, National Iranian American Council

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