White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded to criticism from former President Donald Trump over the administration’s immigration policies, insisting the White House doesn’t take counsel from Trump, whose policies she called “inhumane.” (March 5) AP Domestic
Let’s not get comfortable celebrating policies that upend discriminatory action that has long caused unnecessary pain and agony.
Iranian Americans have played defense for far too long.
For years, the Trump administration’s travel ban hung over our community like a dark cloud — unjustly separating families and loved ones and encouraging a dramatic rise in hate crimes and further discrimination directed at Iranian Americans. This includes the detention of hundreds of Iranian Americans by U.S. Customs and Border Protection on the Washington State/Canadian border in January 2020.
During this time, our community was forced to put our priorities on hold to mount a near-impossible defense against the ban while also protecting our people from the xenophobia that went hand-in-hand with this senseless policy.
The swift action taken by President Joe Biden on his first day in office to repeal the travel ban was a moment that Iranian Americans — and other ethnic communities impacted by this discriminatory policy — celebrated.
But victory is less sweet when it results from overturning something you have long fought against rather than something you have long fought for.
In other words, our community — and our country — can never move forward if we are forced to defend against policies that have no place in this nation.
Last month, the NO BAN Act was reintroduced in Congress by Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., The NO BAN Act will safeguard against future abuses of presidential powers and ensure that exclusion of entry into the United States is maintained for those who pose a real threat — not those whose ethnicity makes them a convenient political target.
We need more policies like the NO BAN Act — policies that aren’t addressing only the here and now but that anticipate and stop future threats. This forward-looking approach allows us to be an advocate for our community rather than constantly being on the defensive.
As a relatively young ethnic community — many of whom fled persecution in Iran in the late 1970s to come to the United States in search of a better life — Iranian Americans remain deeply connected to our roots, traditions and family abroad while we have also embraced the culture, freedoms and customs of America.
Iranian Americans proudly serve in elected office, law enforcement and the military; we are first responders, doctors, educators and business leaders; we value education, family and community; and we believe in civil rights and civil liberties for all.
So when policies like the travel ban are put in place, they become an obstacle that further prevents Iranian Americans from better serving our communities, businesses and families.
We can applaud the repeal of the travel ban — it has been a tremendous weight lifted off our shoulders. But I am asking that we not view the ban’s repeal as “success” and reserve that status for policies that advance our community.
In Congress, bipartisan, bicameral legislation should be reintroduced soon that would make it easier for families and loved ones abroad to visit their relatives in the United States. The Temporary Family Visitation Act seeks to create a new nonimmigrant visa category that will provide an opportunity for family visitations while boosting the U.S. economy.
This is success. This is forward progress. And this is why we have been such staunch advocates of this legislation.
Let’s not get comfortable celebrating policies that upend discriminatory action that has long caused unnecessary pain and agony. Let’s claim victory when we start instituting changes that create a brighter future for all Americans.
Leila Golestaneh Austin is executive director of the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans, a nonpartisan organization serving the interests of the Iranian American community.
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