Skip to main content

When I was 6 years old, my mother, three siblings, and I fled Iran during the Iran-Iraq war, seeking refuge in America. We had no way of knowing then that a president of the United States would one day create a dense web of policies that I think specifically target Iranians and Muslims. We knew only that my fifteen-year-old brother would soon be drafted and sent into battle to die.

To my family, and to millions of other families, America has meant hope. America has meant opportunity. For my mother, in particular, America has meant the joy of watching her children grow up unshadowed by the grief that could tap your shoulder at any moment in the war she only barely escaped.

America has meant, too, the opportunity to give back to the nation that took us in. My sister became a doctor who treats the communities that welcomed her with open hearts. I became a lawyer so I could fight for the forgotten and marginalized.

Today, thousands of Iranians share the same American dream that my family has strived to realize. But the Trump administration has spent the last year slamming the door on refugees and travelers from Iran and other Muslim-majority nations.

This includes my cousins, several of whom had planned to enter college in the U.S. It also includes my uncle, who has undergone 15 years of screening, multiple interviews, and background checks for an immigrant visa only to be shut out by the travel ban during the final step of the visa process. If my mother, my three siblings, and I had been born at a different time, it would have included us, too.

In one sense, our story is extraordinary: out of the thousands, millions, of families who revel in the whispered legend of life in America, my family made it. But in another sense, we’re anything but extraordinary. That same story that unfolded in my life unfolds day after day all around the United States: immigrants and refugees make it to this country and then, striving to build a bright future for themselves and their families, they make it count.

Whether they arrive through a diversity lottery; with a visa to study, work or be with family; or without any documentation at all, immigrants of all kinds come to America for a better life. And they end up making America better off.

And yet, one year ago today, the president made good on perhaps his most infamous campaign promise: to ban Muslims entering the country. Multiple versions later, this ban has been litigated and tweaked and litigated again, but its essence remains the same.

When the president first announced the Muslim ban on Jan. 27, 2017, the nation erupted in outrage. Flooding America’s airports and marching from the White House to the Capitol, we voiced our dismay and insisted that we would never accept any Muslim ban. And more than 150 Members of Congress agreed with us and signed on to an amicus brief opposing the Administration’s Muslim and refugee ban.

The president has made no secret of his agenda to close America’s doors to those who seek refuge or a better life here. He has cut protections for Dreamers and those with temporary protected status, ramped up deportations, and proposed extreme restrictions on our immigration system. He has slashed the number of refugees that America welcomes. His vision for our nation is excruciatingly clear.

Yet in the face of this president’s spiteful policies, I hold fast to a different vision. Alongside countless U.S. citizens and immigrants from around the world, I envision a future in which the promise of our nation will be shared equally.

And so, as the president strives to slam the doors shut on immigrants and refugees, we must stand united and push with all of our might to keep these doors open. Congress has the power to reverse these terrible policies and it’s important today more than ever for Members of Congress to speak out about this discriminatory and unconscionable travel ban.

America has represented hope and opportunity for millions of people over generations. And it will remain so long after this president and his discriminatory policies are gone.

Yasmine Taeb is a human rights attorney and lobbyist at the Friends Committee on National Legislation. You can follow her on Twitter @YasmineTaeb.

This article originally appeared on The Hill’s website on January 26, 2018. You can access the article by clicking here.

Yasmine Taeb

Yasmine Taeb

Legislative Director for Human Rights and Civil Liberties

Yasmine directs FCNL’s work on a number of human rights and civil liberties issues, including lobbying for increased resettlement of refugees, more transparency and oversight of the U.S. lethal drones program, calling for the closure of Guantanamo, and for the repeal of the 2001 AUMF, among other issues.