Why an Iranian Travel Ban Doesn’t Make Sense

It is clear that President Trump is ignorant about Iranians and the Iranian-American community. Otherwise, he would not try to bar Iranians from visiting the United States.

On December 8, 2015, Trump called for a “total and complete” ban on all Muslims from entering the United States. According to the Washington Post, Trump considers the world’s fastest-growing religion “rooted in hatred and violence.”

“We have no choice,” he said to cheers. “We have no choice. We have no choice.”

Once Trump won the Presidency, he made good on his campaign promise with an executive order temporarily making it illegal for visa-holders and permanent residents from seven Muslim-majority countries to visit the United States. The executive order initially barred everyone from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen -- or at least 218 million people, based on 2015 data published by the World Bank. A subsequent executive order took Iraq off the list. President Trump also barred all refugees from coming to the U.S. for the next 120 days. The purpose of the order was said to be the following:

“The visa-issuance process plays a crucial role in detecting individuals with terrorist ties and stopping them from entering the United States. Perhaps in no instance was that more apparent than the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when State Department policy prevented consular officers from properly scrutinizing the visa applications of several of the 19 foreign nationals who went on to murder nearly 3,000 Americans. And while the visa-issuance process was reviewed and amended after the September 11 attacks to better detect would-be terrorists from receiving visas, these measures did not stop attacks by foreign nationals who were admitted to the United States.”

After the ensuing backlash, the administration started to use the terms “vetting” and “extreme vetting.” Those terms have yet to be precisely defined, and their application and use remains ambiguous. But the clear implication is that all these peoples are a dangerous and alien group incompatible with U.S. culture and society.

Is that true of Iranians?

Iranians come over to the U.S. to visit their families and friends. Others come over to pursue higher education. They truly love the United States and Americans. The computer science majors, engineers, scientists, and tech sector graduates who have finished their studies in Iran also contribute to the U.S. economy. According to VB Business, approximately 900 of them helped power top U.S. tech juggernauts:

The Commander in Chief also ignores the fact that the Iranian-American community is one of the most educated and successful immigrant communities in the U.S. According to the Wall Street Journal, there are an “estimated one million to three million Iranian-Americans, making this one of the largest U.S. communities directly affected by Mr. Trump’s … ban.” Iranian-Americans hold high level positions in both government and private sectors. A disproportionally high percentage of Who's Who of NASA is Iranian-American. Moreover, as has been noted in the media, not one Iranian or Iranian-American has either engaged in, or took part in planning, terrorism in the United States.

So the question arises as to why the President and his national security team have zeroed in on Iran, whereas Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt are not on the list. The U.S. has close political, financial and intelligence gathering ties with these three countries, even though the 9/11 hijackers were from those very countries.

Once upon a time, the U.S. and Iran were the closest of allies. During the late Shah’s regime, 45,000 Americans lived in Iran, and trade between the two nations increased from $78 million dollars to $6.4 billion dollars from 1970 to 1978. The 1979 Islamic Revolution and the subsequent hostage crisis ended this close relationship. In response to that crisis, President Carter cancelled all visas issued to Iranians for entry into the United States and warned that they would be revalidated only for “compelling and proven humanitarian reasons or where the national interest requires.”

So we’ve seen this before, but this time without justification. And this time, the pain will be felt not by the Iranian government but by the Iranian people and the loyal and hard-working American citizens of Iranian origin.