FALMOUTH — In 1998, right after my second child was born, I became an American citizen. Carrying our newly born daughter in my arms, and with my husband holding our son’s hand, we celebrated my joining the American nation.

I remember our son staring at me as I repeated the oath, with right hand raised and eyes filled with tears of joy. By then, having arrived from Iran, where I was born and graduated from a university with a science degree, I had lived in Maine for four years and had come to love my adopted country for its promise of liberty, inclusion and religious freedom. As a young Muslim woman I could practice my faith freely, wear the veil or not and be who I wanted to be.

In my new life in America, I cherished my privileges. I continued my education, attended graduate school and went to work for the Portland Public Schools. I donated blood, voted and volunteered. Together with my spouse, we raised two children, saw them both attend universities and took pride in calling ourselves Mainers, even though, every now and then, we were reminded gently that we were “from away”!

We worked hard, bought a house, paid taxes, started a small business to complement our salaried income, hiked and camped in summer, went to the drive-ins, picked apples and shoveled snow in winter, just as other Maine families did.

Yet we missed our families back in Iran even though we went there to visit a few times. My parents, when in Canada to visit my older brothers and their families, applied for a U.S. tourist visa. Though they had gone through the Canadian security clearance before being allowed to visit the country, it took them months to get the tourist visa. They came to Maine and stayed for a few weeks.

They did this twice: Arriving in Canada on a visitor visa, staying with my brothers and visiting us after obtaining U.S. tourist visas. Each time, my parents – my father, a retired high school principal, and my mother, a homemaker – were subjected to a lengthy vetting process administrated by a few different government agencies. They left after each visit to go back to their lives in Iran. Later, my father would joke that the U.S. government knew more about him than he did about himself!


As time passed and my parents grew older, I submitted a petition to have them come to the U.S. as immigrants. With legal assistance from an immigration attorney, we started the complex process.

It took two years to have my elderly parents be approved, after satisfying the authorities that my parents would not become a “financial burden” and would pose no security threat to the United States.

Still, because they were Iranian nationals, additional security clearances were demanded. We had no problem with that: I share the same love for America, and I want it to be safe, for me, for my family and for others.

Months followed. By spring of 2016, my 81-year-old father, who had loved Maine and had started to learn English, was diagnosed with cancer. Months later, he passed away. He did not get to see his American grandchildren attend university. Heartbroken, we continued our efforts, and asked Maine Sen. Angus King to help us to bring my mother to Maine.

Recently, after nearly three years of paperwork and background checks, my elderly mother received her visa. She was in Canada, where she, as a final step, had been interviewed at the U.S. Consulate when her visa was issued. I was overjoyed, but the joy did not last long. With the recent executive order signed by President Trump, banning immigration from certain Muslim countries, my mother’s case is again in limbo.

I have no idea what to tell my 75-year-old mother. Despite passing numerous security background checks, she, because of where she was born, would not be welcomed in America. How would you tell a grandmother that she was being seen as a security threat?

We all want to live in a safe country. A ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries may or may not be part of efforts to keep us safe, or be an outcome of politics of division, but it surely punishes and dehumanizes millions of peaceful citizens, who want to be with their children to celebrate their grandchildren’s graduations, birthdays and other milestones.

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