Donald Trump really wants you to think he cares about the people of Iran. Over the weekend, he even tweeted in Farsi, telling Iranians, “I've stood with you since the beginning of my Presidency, and my Administration will continue to stand with you.” He added, “We are following your protests closely, and are inspired by your courage.”
Yep, Trump deeply cares about the people of Iran, and you can tell by the way he has banned all of them from America—even those who simply want to be reunited with their American spouses, or Iranian grandparents who want to visit their Iranian American grandchildren for the first time. As the nonpartisan National Iranian American Council has stated, Trump’s “Muslim Ban has succeeded in separating American families and making the country less inclusive.”
Iran, a nation of over 80 million, is the largest in terms of population of the five Muslim majority countries on Trump’s Muslim ban (aka “travel ban”) that was upheld by the Supreme Court’s five conservatives in December 2017. True, there is a waiver program that allows people from the banned countries to apply for a visa to the United States, which on its face appears reasonable. Such a waiver will be granted if a person can demonstrate that: (A) denying entry would cause the foreign national undue hardship; (B) entry would not pose a threat to the national security or public safety of the United States; and (C) entry would be in the national interest.
But given Trump’s well documented animus toward Muslims, it’s no surprise that to the Trump administration even a Muslim grandmother who simply wants to see her grandchild for the first and maybe only time is somehow viewed as a threat and not granted a waiver. Team Trump has rejected over 90 percent (with some reports saying nearly 95 percent) of all waiver applications from the countries impacted by his ban, which also include Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia.
Want to guess which country has the most waiver denials? Did you guess the people from the country Trump claims he cares so much about? If you did, then you’re correct. When the Trump administration is not imposing severe sanctions on Iran’s economy, which of course also hurt the very same Iranians civilians Trump claims to be concerned about, it’s rejecting Iranians’ applications for waivers more than nationals of any other country on the banned list.
One painful example is the Trump administration’s approval of only 2.9 percent of the applications by Iranians seeking to be reunited with their spouses living in the United States between December 2017 and March 2019. (The American spouses were all either U.S. citizens or permanent residents.) That’s why the National Iranian American Council so aptly said that “the waiver process continues to be a sham.”
But forget the statistics. Look at the real-world impact of Trump’s ban. For example, Hedieh Yazdanseta, who came to the United States 30 years ago and lives in Long Island, New York, and has two children with her Iranian husband, Mohsen Rahmani, including a 9-year-old boy who has autism. As she told The New York Times, “My husband is banned, simply because he was born in Iran,” which has resulted in them being apart for years. “I don’t have him beside me as I get my son tested, as our daughter plays in playoffs or as she performs at her school concerts,” she said. “I don’t have him for birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, deaths in the family, or simply to kiss good night.”
Then there are Iranian Americans living in the United States whose parents are still in Iran and aren’t granted visas to even visit their grandchildren here. One couple shared that because of Trump’s ban, their parents in Iran can only interact with their grandchildren via Skype. As the father put it, “My daughter probably thinks grandparents are things that live inside Skype,” adding, “We are not a terrorist family. And this is not fair.”
Trump’s ban is even hurting Iranian Christians. For example, American Sarah Vosseteig had been working in Turkey when she met a Christian Iranian refugee, fell in love, and married him. Despite Trump’s professed love of Christians, the couple have been waiting two years for her husband to be allowed in the United States to start, as Sarah’s mother put it to The Washington Post, “a life of security and freedom.” The couple remains in limbo in Turkey with no idea if the husband will ever be granted a visa.
Things have become so dire that 14 Iranian Americans filed a federal lawsuit last year against the Trump administration for the hardships and "unbearable burdens" caused by the ban. One of the plaintiffs, Shamim Darchini, a U.S. citizen living in Irvine, California, met her husband, a dentist, when she went traveled to Iran to visit family in 2013. The two were married in 2015 and by early 2017 were told by U.S. officials after his interview for a visa that all “looked good.”
That was until Trump’s ban was upheld by the Supreme Court a few months later. The husband’s visa application has been in limbo ever since. As Shamim alleges her lawsuit, the two years separated from her husband by Trump’s ban has caused her "severe anxiety, stress, and depression,” as well as triggering other health issues.
These stories are just the tip of the iceberg of the suffering caused to Iranians by Trump’s ban, which has separated and broken families apart simply because they are Iranian. But Trump wants you to think he genuinely cares about the people of Iran. He doesn’t. Trump only cares about one person: Donald J. Trump. The rest of us are simply expendable props for his grotesque reality show.