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Travel rules leave Iranian-Americans in limbo

  • U.S. Navy veteran Mohammed Jahanfar poses for a photo during an interview on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, in Long Beach, Calif. Jahanfar, is seeking a visa to bring his Iranian fiancée to live with him in California, and fears that may not be possible due to the Trump administration's latest travel restrictions for Iran. (AP Photo/Amy Taxin) Amy Taxin

  • This July 2017 photo provided by U.S. Navy veteran Mohammed Jahanfar shows Jananfar and his fiancee Neda Hosseini in in Bodrum, Turkey. Jahanfar, is seeking a visa to bring his Iranian fiancée to live with him in California, and fears that may not be possible due to the Trump administration's latest travel restrictions for Iran. (Mohammed Jahanfar via AP) Mohammed Jahanfar



Associated Press
Thursday, September 28, 2017

U.S. Navy veteran Mohammed Jahanfar has traveled overseas four times in the last year to visit his Iranian fiancee, most recently hoping to complete government paperwork that would allow her to come live with him in the United States.

But the 39-year-old now fears they will be forever separated after President Donald Trump’s administration rolled out new restrictions blocking most Iranians from traveling to America. The new restrictions covering citizens of Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria and Yemen – and some Venezuelan government officials and their families – are to go into effect Oct. 18.

“It is devastating,” said Jahanfar, who works as a salesman in Long Beach, Calif., and has lived in the United States for three decades. “There should be no reason why my fiancee, who is an educated person in Iran, who has a master’s degree, why we cannot be with each other. I cannot wrap my head around it.”

This is the Trump administration’s third measure to limit travel following a broad ban that sparked chaos at U.S. airports in January and a temporary order issued months later that was challenged in the courts and expired last weekend.

Jahanfar is among 385,000 Iranian immigrants in the United States, according to the Census Bureau, more than any of the other countries covered by the travel restrictions issued last weekend.

The U.S. has a many-layered history with Iran, a Middle Eastern ally until the pro-American shah was overthrown by the Islamic Revolution of 1979. The shah came to the U.S. and so did tens of thousands of other Iranians.

Now, the U.S. and Iranian governments have no diplomatic relations. Even so, many Iranians and Iranian-Americans have been able to regularly travel back and forth and kept close family ties.

The new restrictions range from an indefinite ban on visas for citizens of Syria to more targeted limitations. Iranians will not be eligible for immigrant, tourism or business visas but remain eligible for student and cultural exchange visas if they undergo additional scrutiny.

The measures target countries that homeland security says fail to share sufficient information with the U.S. or haven’t taken necessary security precautions.

Iranian-American advocates said they’ve been fielding phone calls from frantic community members who fear they will remain separated from families. Already, many Iranian visa applicants find themselves caught up in lengthy security checks, delaying their travel plans.

“People don’t know what to do,” said immigration attorney Ally Bolour. “If you are from one of these banned countries, there is just so much going on already. This just adds another layer.”