President Donald Trump’s executive order barring people from seven majority-Muslim countries for 90 days has had ripple effects here in New Hampshire. Among those impacted is Omid Moghimi. He is an Iranian-American citizen and a medical resident at Dartmouth-Hitchcock. And he has been trying to bring his wife Dorsa Razi to the United States for a year and a half now.
He joins NHPR’s Peter Biello to talk about their situation.
This transcript has been edited for clarity.
You and your wife have been working on getting her green card for around 18 months now, is that correct?
That’s correct. We started the process in August of 2015.
And what was that process like?
Well, I think it’s the same process that I’m sure everyone goes through. There’s several steps and several waves of sending in documents, basically. We started off with sending an application to the U.S. CIS, and then waited for several months for them to process it. I believe they were doing background checks and things like that at that time. Then our case was transferred over to the National Visa Center and they required another set of documents, fees to be paid. And the last set of documents that we sent in were on July of 2016, I believe. And I heard back from the National Visa Center saying, “Okay, everything looks good. Now we're just waiting for your interview spot to open up.”
And I should back up and say that there is no U.S. Consulate in Tehran. So in order to have an interview, which everyone needs to have for an immigration visa, we had to pick one of the surrounding countries. We picked the U.S. Consulate in Abu Dhabi in the U.A.E. And so from July of 2016 on we were just waiting for an interview spot to open up for her to have her immigration interview there.
And then you had this interview scheduled for February 2nd and that was canceled after the executive order issued by President Trump on Friday. How did you find out?
I found out on Saturday. There was an email from the National Visa Center basically saying that, “Due to unforeseen circumstances, your visa interview has been canceled. We will contact you whenever we’re able to reschedule”. That was Saturday. And then Sunday they sent another email mentioning the executive order by President Trump as the reason for the cancelation for the visa interview. They said, “Please don’t try to make your interview appointment. Please don’t try to make another interview appointment. There’s nothing for you to do. Just wait for us to contact you again.”
No word on when this might open up again, so this could be an indefinite hold for you and your wife.
Correct. And in fact that is what our concern is. I’ve heard people say, “Well, it’s only a 90 day ban.” Well, first of all, after you’ve been waiting for 18 months, 90 days isn’t a lot of time if you feel there’s some purpose behind it. I’ve been unable to find any behind this move that is sound and that would in any way help protect national security. But aside from that, the issue is that the way the executive order is written right now, it places demands on the countries involved that they have to meet after the 90 days are up. Or the bans will likely be made permanent. And the likelihood from my understanding just having grown up in Iran and knowing how things work there and also reading various other analysts' opinions on this, it’s very likely that the Iranian government is going to meet those demands. So we are very worried about this ban becoming permanent.
If it does become permanent, what will you do?
Well, that was the big thing that kind of hit us when we got this email on Saturday is trying to figure out what our options would be. And to be honest, if it is going to be permanent and there’s going to be no recourse for my wife to get here, then we’ll have to leave. We’ll have to permanently leave and go to another country so we can live together.
That’s another one of the things I’ve heard from a number of people who have supported this move by President Trump that, “Well, it’s bad but it’s only affecting foreigners. It’s not affecting U.S. citizens." Well, in this case and many cases like mine, if it becomes a permanent ban it will force a United States citizen to leave the country and live elsewhere.
Have you heard of any family or friends who have also been affected by this?
Certainly. I have another acquaintance from Pittsburg who’s in a similar situation. He and his wife have their wedding planned in the States, and she’s going to be unable to make it. I have family members who have their green cards and they're concerned about whether or not they’ll be able to come back. So yeah, this is affecting a lot of people that we know.
Are you getting the support you need from friends and family here on this side of the ocean during this time?
Yes, absolutely. Immediately when we got wind of the fact that president Trump was going to be signing this executive order, I started posting on social media about this, trying to call attention. Immediately friends and family started supporting, reaching out, helping sign petitions, things like that. All of my family members and close friends and I have been calling our senators and congress people every single day to voice our opposition to this move.
I mean, this is one of the major reasons that we love this country. We’re eager to continue our lives here and for my wife and I to begin our lives here because of this level of support and partnership that exists in the people here. Unfortunately, the government right now has made us feel a significant amount of betrayal on their part. But we’ll see what happens.