Reporter's Notebook

How the Travel Ban Affects You
Show Description +

Readers share their personal stories and views on Trump’s executive order barring certain immigrants and refugees. To join in, send us a note at

Show None Newer Notes

‘In Iran They Call Trump the American Ahmadinejad’

On June 2, 2009, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks at a rally at Tehran's Azadi sports complex during his re-election campaign. Caren Firouz / Reuters

An Iranian American reader is worried about her family and friends in the wake of President Trump’s travel ban on the citizens of Libya, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, and, of course, Iran:

My father is a small business owner in the Midwest, managing a manufacturing company of 20 employees. He has operated this business for the past 15 years, providing jobs and benefits to hard-working Americans. My dad himself is a naturalized citizen, Iranian born. He attended university in the U.S. right before revolution broke out in Iran, and for 35 years thereafter he was unable to return to Iran.

His siblings slowly immigrated to Europe and the U.S. over the years with my grandparents visiting us for years at a time. My grandparents very proudly became naturalized citizens a few years ago.

My father spent these last two weeks in Iran attending to his widowed mother, who is hard of hearing, hard of sight, and diabetic. She had missed her sisters and their families and so went back to Iran a few months ago, despite our wish for her to stay.

This weekend, with the confusion over the ban and not understanding to whom it applied, I found myself asking if my father would be allowed back in the country on Sunday because of his dual nationality. Thankfully, he was.

But my grandmother is still in Iran. I am worried about our ability to bring her back to the U.S. before tensions get worse between the two countries, despite her dual citizenship and the dual citizenship of my relatives who would need to escort her back. We are worried about our friends and family, the students who have visas to study in the U.S., who don’t know if or when they can visit home now. We are worried about the families who hoped to send their children to the U.S. for educational opportunities. We are worried about the individuals who fled Iran and sought asylum and freedom from religious persecution.

They call Trump the “American Ahmadinejad” in Iran and no wonder; he is self-serving, uninformed, and shows intolerance to vulnerable populations.

I am hopeful that our senators and governors will hear our calls to stay Trump’s immigration order. We are a nation founded on seeking refuge, and to institute a “Muslim ban” on the premise that providing solace to refugees will harm our nation is an insult to this country.

If your own family is being affected by the travel ban and you’d like to share your story, please send us a note. Regarding the first reader’s Ahmadinejad/Trump comparison, “it has some depth,” according to The Washington Post’s Ishaan Tharoor in a September 2016 piece:

We posted a note earlier from an Iranian American woman who worries that her sick grandmother and other family and friends back in Iran won’t be able to come to the U.S. A few more readers followed up with similar worries regarding loved ones in Iran—one of the seven countries affected by Trump’s travel ban:

My husband left for Iran on Thursday (the day before the ban was signed) to visit his sister who had a heart attack! He is supposed to come back in February. He has a Green Card and has been in the U.S. since 1994. We own a business here in Virginia, with several contracts that are due by end of February. What can I say to our clients? How am I suppose to earn any money to keep our mortgage and bills paid without my husband?  I am still not clear if Green Card holders can board the plane to U.S. or not. We live five minutes away from the Dulles airport. He has no problem answering any questions by customs agents, but will they let him board the plane in Munich? I am freaking out!

I have lived in the States since I was 7, which makes it 40 years now, and I have never been so sad with what is happening here. What is happening? I’m so confused and disappointed.

The Trump White House initially barred Green Card holders, but no longer. The reader’s confusion is understandable, however, given the rushed, uncoordinated, and imprecise language of the executive order—and what might come next.

This next reader also has family ties with Iran:

Long story short, my son was born and raised in the U.S., as was I (my family were Polish immigrants at the turn of the 20th century). He has become a successful writer and professor, after receiving his doctorate degree from Columbia at the age of 24. He fell in love with a wonderful Iranian woman several years ago. She is such an intelligent, beautiful woman working as a pediatric nurse anesthetist and hoping to get into the medical field here in the U.S.

They have been waiting for her visa since applying in 2015. They were married in Georgia (the country), and they were expecting to be together soon. Unfortunately, that process has been stopped due to the ban on Iranians. Even if you marry a U.S. citizen, you have to get a visa first before entering the country.

My heart is broken for them. We are all devastated. I really am at a loss for the right words to describe what we have gone through this past week … such sadness.

We keep getting notes from readers who have personal ties to Iran—one of the seven countries involved in Trump’s travel ban (and bolded in the table above, which was created for Uri’s illuminating piece “Where America’s Terrorists Actually Come From”). The latest testimony comes from a reader with an Iranian boyfriend:

He graduated with a Ph.D. from a top American university in 2015. He has a one-time entry visa and is fearful of the risks involved when renewing it (the State Department can be unpredictable), so he has not traveled back to Iran since starting his Ph.D. in 2009. It has been 7+ years since he has last seen his family in person or walked the streets of his hometown of Tehran.

He said he would only feel comfortable traveling to Iran if he had a Green Card, so he is currently in the application process. But the executive order by Trump has created havoc for him and many of his Iranian friends who are also applying for Green Cards.

They are not threats to the United States. If anything, each of them has spent close to a quarter of their life contributing to American society through their Ph.D. research. They are the brightest and best students in Iran, many of them did their undergraduate studies at Sharif University—the Iranian equivalent of MIT. My boyfriend ranked 62nd among more than 400,000 participants on the college entrance exam.

To treat these exceptional individuals as terror threats is a travesty, and it highlights the ignorance of the Trump Administration.

Another reader has a very different view:

Although I don’t have any family or even distant relatives going to or coming from any of the banned countries, if I had, I would support our nation’s decision to do what it has to in order to assure the safety of citizens. For a slight inconvenience or even a great inconvenience, the safety of my family and the families of Americans are of #1 importance. Trump seems to be the only one who had the courage to take a stand and take action on a long-overdue refugee settlement problem in our country!

From a long-time reader and self-described “GWOT Veteran”—a military vet of the global war on terrorism:

I gave Trump a chance because I wanted people to give Obama a chance, and my friends who voted for Trump told me they didn’t like all his rhetoric. I can live with the conservative policies. I’m a liberal, but I recognize there are consequences to elections.

But there are numerous things Trump has done in just his first week that I disagree with.

Janis Traven

A reader, Janis, shares her family’s courageous “coming to America” story:

It’s the little details of being “other” that creep up unexpectedly. Late last night I read Julia Ioffe’s own refugee story in The Atlantic and was brought to tears by her mention of the mineral collection in a blue cardboard box. I also had one, as a child in the 1960s, and I know it meant something to my grandparents, but I don’t know what. (It was likely some nationalistic and chauvinistic collection of natural resources; Russia has the best quartz, bauxite, etc.)

My grandparents escaped from the Soviet Union in 1921, masqueraded as a klezmer band on the way to a gig in Bessyrabia. My father was an infant hidden in their coats. Once they got to the other side of the river, they kept going. They were able to get a visa from their interim residence in Bucharest. They arrived at Ellis Island in 1923, on the sister ship to The Titanic.

My grandmother’s brother also left the USSR, but the rest of the family stayed. They survived the war by going east into the Caucasus and hiding. After WWII and during the Cold War, communication was limited and cryptic between my grandparents and their siblings. In 1960, my grandparents went back to the USSR to visit family and returned with a blue box of minerals for me. The whereabouts of that box is unknown, after many moves.

Thank you to Julia for sharing her story. It is monstrous the way that respect for others has morphed into intolerance and abuse [under the new Trump administration]. It’s not my America.

Janis also provided the following image of an American stamp that “reminds me so much of my father’s immigration photo” (seen above, posted with permission):

From the U.S. Postal Service’s Stamp Subject Selection criteria: “The Postal Service will honor extraordinary and enduring contributions to American society, history, culture, or environment. The stamp program commemorates positive contributions to American life, history, culture, and environment; therefore, negative occurrences and disasters will not be commemorated on U.S. postage stamps.”

After I posted the old family photo on my Facebook page, I was charmed that my nephews shared the post with a proud and full-throated defense of immigrants. We need more of that. They and their friends saw my nephews’ faces in my grandfather’s, and my son’s face in my grandmother’s, which was a lovely connection for them.

The infant in the photo is my aunt, who died two weeks ago. The little boy (age 3) is my father, Boris Tuchinsky, who changed his name to Traven to avoid the quotas imposed on Jews applying for admission to medical school. Boris Tuchinsky graduated 1st in his class at NYU and was rejected for medical school. Boris Traven was admitted.

Speaking of medical schools, reader Renie is worried that they’ll suffer under the Trump administration:

I just got off the phone with one of my children—an administrator for a fellowship program at the medical school of a major state university. The story she told me was of tremendous fear and upheaval.