Torn apart: Trump ban echoes in immigrant community of Saratoga
Only a week into his presidency, Donald Trump announced that he would be banning immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries for at least 90 days: a move criticized by many as the polar opposite to the ideals of freedom and equal opportunity that our nation was founded on.
Across the country, protesters flocked to airports to express their anguish at what they see as Trump’s xenophobic policies and offer support to the thousands of confused and dejected immigrants who were immediately detained and deported. Much to the delight of these protestors, the ban was disallowed by federal courts and may go to the Supreme Court.
Saratoga is a community of immigrants, many of whom have come here from countries like Taiwan, South Korea or Iran, and some students have parents who immigrated from one of the seven banned countries in search of opportunity in the U.S. The Falcon spoke with two students whose families came here from Iran.
Siavash Yaghoobi: Arguing against a culture of paranoid exclusion
When Trump’s immigration ban was announced, a feeling of disgust overcame senior Siavash Yaghoobi and his family.
Siavash’s own relatives were either already citizens in the United States or Canada or living comfortably in the wealthier provinces of Iran. Many of their visiting family friends had also arrived to the U.S. before the ban.
His mom and dad were both born in Iran and immigrated here in search of education and opportunity in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
“When I came over, the understanding was that the U.S. was welcoming to immigrants from all over the world,” Hassan Yaghoobi, Siavash’s father. “The U.S. was a place for people around the world who wanted to come here, build their lives and follow their dreams. What is happening today is the complete opposite. There isn't an indication of tolerance, freedom of speech, freedom of opinion and a sense of inclusion for different races.”
Recently, the Yaghoobi family dinner table has become a forum for discussing both politics and what might happen to family and friends if the ban was allowed.
Although Siavash and most of his relatives have already become U.S. citizens, he is still strongly opposed to the ban.
“Even if it hasn’t directly affected any of my family, it's clearly a controversial topic for them considering their background,” Siavash said.
As a captain of the Lincoln-Douglas debate team, Siavash has had years of experience arguing two sides of an issue, but he was unable to find any logical reason for the ban.
“I try to give different sides of every issue an equal, unbiased consideration, regardless of who supports each side,” he said, “but I find it hard to justify any of the poor decisions made this past week.”
Siavash argues that the justifications for the ban are flawed, since the country is at next to little to no risk of a terrorist attack caused by Muslim immigrants.
As he has read articles detailing the experiences of immigrants, refugees and families turned back at airports across the U.S., he thought back to his own family’s history in America.
“It’s weird to think that couple of decades ago my family came here and they went to college,” Siavash said. “My dad got a Ph.D and my mom got a doctorate, but if neither of them had that opportunity, I wouldn't even have been born.”
Looking at the comfortable life he now has, thanks to the opportunity that the U.S. once offered to his parents, Siavash expressed his sympathy for the thousands of would-be-immigrants who might lose their chance at a better life.
“This is kind of cliche, but it’s also pretty true that the country was built on immigrants,” Yaghoobi said. “I don't think it's justified especially when a lot of these people are facing hardships back home.”
Sora Ebrahimi: immigrant from Iran seeking equal opportunity
Not all families were lucky enough to find opportunity in Iran before the country was engulfed in violence and political strife.
Due to increasing disruption back home, sophomore Sora Ebrahimi and her family sought refuge in the U.S in 2009. At the time, she was in third grade, and Ebrahimi and her family moved to escape the political chaos going on: A presidential election was occurring and the candidate who had won was accused of stuffing the ballot boxes. Protests broke out throughout the country and chaos became commonplace.
“I remember driving by one of the protests and getting tear gas in my eyes,” Ebrahimi said.
Ebrahimi and her family also moved for a better education for her and more work opportunities for her mother, a professional singer who was restricted in Iran from performing solo in concerts.
“I know there are a lot of people around that don’t have the opportunity [to immigrate here] money-wise, but now a lot of people that do deserve it and have earned the money to be able to come here can’t,” Ebrahimi said.
The lack of civil rights and growing development of restrictions on women in Iran offered few opportunities for Ebrahimi and her family, so she felt lucky to have been able to come to the U.S.
Since Ebrahimi left her home country, the situation for women has hardly improved. She recalls public areas for women, such as the gym and gymnasium, being shut down near her hometown in Iran.
In contrast, this country offers Ebrahim educational opportunities and a welcoming atmosphere that she would not have had in Iran.
Ebrahimi recalls the first time she was beaten by a teacher in third grade. She had forgotten to bring in an essay and her teacher used three heavy textbooks to hit her on the head. Afterwards her teacher balanced them on her head and had her stand on one foot in front of the entire class.
“The books fell after about 15 minutes because my leg was getting tired, so my teacher picked them up, hit me again, and made me stand there for another 20 minutes,” Ebrahimi said.
Despite the hardships of living in Iran, Ebrahimi still occasionally feels homesick and often misses seeing her friends and family there.
“A lot of my really good friends are still in Iran and I can barely talk to them over Facebook or Skype, and my family in Iran was supposed to actually come here and we were supposed to go to Dubai to see them again,” Ebrahimi said. “I haven’t seen a lot of my family in over six years and now I don’t know if I’ll even be able to see them anytime soon because of the ban.”
Ebrahimi expressed discontent with Trump’s ban, she and her parents see it as an unnecessary, unfair and illogical restriction.
“Trump said that the reason he placed the ban was because of terrorist attacks, but Iran has been innocent and not done anything harmful,” Ebrahimi said. “I just didn’t expect this; for people to actually elect someone like Trump that was talking about kicking an entire population of people out of a country known for its diversity.”
April 30: Saratoga Music Booster's Pancake Breakfast
June 8: Graduation