The holidays are a great time to catch-up on reading. At NIAC, we would like to share some of our personal favorite books related to Iran or written by an Iranian-American author. These books can also be the perfect gift for a loved one this holiday season. Additionally, if you shop through Amazon Smile and designate NIAC as your charity of choice, your book purchase can support our organization. Happy reading!
Memoirs & Literature by Iranian Americans
The Limits of Whiteness: Iranian Americans and the Everyday Politics of Race by Neda Maghbouleh uses the author’s own experiences and numerous case studies to delve into the complexities of Iranian-American identity and what it means to be a “white-passing” minority in modern America.
Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing up Iranian in America and American in Iran by Azadeh Moaveni tells the story of the author’s own journey to reconcile her American and Iranian identities as she grows up in both California and Tehran.
Prisoner: My 544 Days in an Iranian Prison—Solitary Confinement, a Sham Trial, High-Stakes Diplomacy, and the Extraordinary Efforts It Took to Get Me Out by Jason Rezaian is an upcoming memoir to be published in late January. It documents the experiences of the Washington Post’s Tehran bureau chief who was imprisoned for 18 months in a Tehran prison. Pre-order it today!
Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card by Sara Saedi is a young adult novel about Saedi’s experience as an undocumented Iranian immigrant growing up in the U.S., as she deals with issues of identity and coming-of-age with candid humor. The novel is soon to be adapted into an ABC comedy series, so keep an eye out!
Politics, International Studies, & Iran
Revolutionary Iran: A History of the Islamic Republic by Michael Axworthy offers an overview of major events and figures in Iranian political life since 1979.
A Social Revolution: Politics and the Welfare State in Iran by Kevan Harris explores the role that social policy and welfare organizations play in Iranian politics and social change.
A History of Modern Iran by Ervand Abrahamian offers a deeply incisive appraisal of Iranian history from the 19th century to the 1953 coup to the nuclear crisis, as he details Iran’s evolution from an agrarian, peasant society to a centralized state.
Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States by Trita Parsi examines the clandestine interactions between Iran and Israel both during the Shah era and after the revolution.
Nixon, Kissinger, and the Shah: The United States and Iran in the Cold War by Roham Alvandi explains the Shah’s efforts to establish Iranian regional primacy in the Persian Gulf, and discusses Iran’s shifting relationship with the U.S. during the Nixon era away from patron-client status.
The Oil Kings: How the U.S., Iran, and Saudi Arabia Changed the Balance of Power in the Middle East by Andrew Scott Cooper details how the Nixon administration colluded with the Shah to raise oil prices in return for the Shah buying military hardware.
ReOrienting the Sasanians: East Iran in Late Antiquity by Princeton-based historian Khodadad Rezakhani tells the story of the Sassanian Empire as a Central Asian power.
Power and Change in Iran: Politics of Contention and Conciliation, edited by Farideh Farhi and Daniel Brumberg, compiles various case studies analyzing contemporary Iranian politics and society, from the inner workings of the Iranian political system to human rights debates and social welfare systems.
Iranian Cuisine & Cookbooks
Cooking in Iran: Regional Recipes for Kitchen Secrets by renowned Iranian chef Najmieh Batmanglij is the product of the author’s five year long trip to Iran. Batmanglij takes her readers on a culinary journey across Iran, visiting different cities and provinces, and brings together the traditional recipes and surprising new dishes that she finds along the way.
Salt Fat Acid Heat, by Iranian-American chef Samin Nosrat, takes apart the four most basic elements of cooking. Nosrat teaches the reader that if they understand these fundamentals of cooking, they too can become a chef. This extremely successful book has also been adapted into a Netflix documentary series!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jamal Abdi
Washington, DC – The National Iranian American Council is calling on Bank of America to immediately end discriminatory practices against Iranians and Iranian Americans and to conduct a full review of its procedures related to the suspension bank accounts held by individuals of Iranian descendant.
“Closing bank accounts on the basis of national origin or heritage is discriminatory,” said Jamal Abdi, NIAC Vice President for Policy. “If Bank of America is unable to comply with the myriad of U.S. sanctions on Iran without discriminating against persons of Iranian heritage, it needs to take that up with the U.S. government instead of passing the burden onto ordinary people.”
NIAC has received numerous inquiries and complaints from Iranian visa holders and permanent residents, as well U.S. citizens of Iranian descent, regarding closures of their bank accounts by Bank of America. In one case, and individual was unable to access their own funds when they needed to pay for medical expenses for their pregnant spouse. In other cases, Bank of America has closed accounts and sent reimbursement checks that have been lost in the mail.
“As tensions rise between the U.S. and Iran, we are concerned that ordinary Iranians and Iranian Americans will be caught in the middle,” said Abdi. “ We cannot allow entities like Bank of America to protect themselves at the expense of the rights and protections of their customers.”
Following the discriminatory measures taken by Bank of America in the wrongful closing and seizure of bank accounts belonging to Iranian Americans, NIAC delivered a letter to Bank of America CEO, Brian T. Moynihan, voicing the concerns of the Iranian-American community. NIAC had previously been in contact with Bank of America over related concerns in 2014 and received only perfunctory responses and no willingness by Bank of America to review or adjust its policies.
NIAC has addressed similar concerns with several banks and businesses that have engaged in discriminatory practices in the name of complying with U.S. sanctions on Iran, including other major banks and large corporations like Apple. In some cases, NIAC was able to help facilitate policy changes by the business, in other cases NIAC was able to secure necessary adjustments to U.S. sanctions policies.
NIAC is open to working with Bank of America to ensure that the rights of its customers are protected. NIAC will continue to to protect against violations of civil liberties targeting the Iranian-American community and ensure that all possible avenues for resolving such violations are pursued.
Washington, D.C. — The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) applauds today’s unanimous decision in the Supreme Court of the United States rejecting the seizure of ancient Iranian antiquities, ending an over decade-long legal battle.
NIAC has argued that victims of terror deserve to be heard – that they deserve justice. But in NIAC’s view, the artifacts do not belong to the government of Iran, but the people of Iran, and as a result they cannot be confiscated to compensate victims of terror. Depriving millions of Iranians across the globe – who have no ties to terrorism, and unequivocally condemn terrorism – access to these precious artifacts by selling off their history and heritage to the highest bidder is itself an unjust act. These artifacts have always belonged to the people, and now, after an 8-0 ruling by the Supreme Court, they can continue to be appreciated by the people.
Since 2006, NIAC has supported the opposition to the seizure of the Persepolis tablets — clay tablets written in Aramaic and other ancient languages dating back to the fifth century BC that contain important clues about the religion, administration, society, and economy inside the ancient Persian empire.
The Persepolis tablets have been under threat of seizure for years following a deadly 1997 attack by Hamas suicide bombers in a crowded pedestrian mall in Jerusalem. Victims of the attack and their families filed suit against the government of Iran for providing support to Hamas, and won a default judgment of $71.5 million. Iran did not pay, and the Plaintiffs have been trying to seize the Persepolis tablets, which they alleged were the property of Iran, to satisfy their judgement by auctioning off the artifacts on display at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History and the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago.
NIAC helped the University of Chicago fight against the seizure of the Persepolis tablets in court, by filing a 2008 amicus brief with the federal appellate court, fought in the halls of Congress, and even fought in the White House. After a hard fought ten years by the University, we are relieved that the Persepolis tablets are finally safe.
Washington, DC – The US Census Bureau once again declined to add a Middle East and North African (MENA) category for the 2020 census. Many Americans of Middle-Eastern descent, including Iranian Americans, have for decades sought the additional category so that the census more accurately reflects America’s mosaic of different cultures and the voices of Iranian Americans are not ignored by lawmakers.
According to the US Census Bureau guide on race and ethnicity,’ White’ refers to people from Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. Other racial categories also encompass massive geographic zones, for example, ‘Asian’ includes people from South and East Asia. In other words, an Irish American is labeled the same as an Iranian American, and an Indian American is categorized the same as a Japanese American. By including broad racial categories without making room for the reality of ethnic and regional diversity, the Census Bureau runs the risk of marginalizing minority groups by combining them into bigger and less meaningful racial categories.
Unlike other ethnicities, the Census Bureau does make a distinction between Hispanics/ Latinos and non-Hispanics/Latinos. According to the Census Bureau, “people who identify as Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish may be any race.” For example, an American of Afro-Colombian descent might report themselves as ‘Black or African American’ and ‘Hispanic or Latino’. Someone of primarily European ancestry who is also a Cuban American might report themselves as ‘White’ and ‘Hispanic or Latino’.
Adding this category did not happen overnight and was a result of a strong push by Latino advocacy groups throughout the 1970s which culminated in the category being added in the 1980 census. Ian Haney Lopez, a law professor at Berkeley, has written extensively on the legal construction of race in the US. According to him, race is an important census category but adding ethnicity can also have benefits. In 2009, Lopez wrote that “the census shows, for example, that 36 percent of Dominicans but only half that proportion of Cubans live below the poverty line in the United States. What is true of Latinos is true of other groups. No racial group is internally homogenous; whites, blacks, Native Americans, Asians, and Pacific Islanders all vary along internal fault lines.” In other words, this has allowed for a significantly more accurate and nuanced snapshot of Latino Americans.
Rather than limiting Iranian Americans to a racial category that includes 61% of the U.S. population, a MENA category could lead to the same benefits for Iranian Americans as the ‘Hispanic or Latino’ category created for Latino Americans. This is particularly important for communities that traditionally produce fewer elected lawmakers and are unknown or misunderstood by the broader population. However, some have expressed concerns about creating a MENA category during the Trump administration out of fear of its potential abuse. While these concerns are certainly justified, the information provided to the Census Bureau is private and protected by law (Title 13, U.S. Code, Section 9). NIAC believes that the benefits the category would bring to the Iranian-American community far outweigh the risks and will continue to advocate for its inclusion.
NIAC has long recognized the importance of being accurately counted as a community, especially in congressional districts where high numbers of Iranians reside but are often discounted by their elected representatives. In 2003, NIAC published a report with population estimates for states and congressional districts known to host large Iranian-American communities. However, this proved difficult since many Iranian Americans did not write-in their origin on the 2000 Census. Leading up to the 2010 Census, NIAC and other Iranian-American organizations partnered with the United States Department of Commerce to increase awareness about the 2010 Census and the option to write-in ethnicity. The idea behind self-identifying as Iranian American (or other MENA backgrounds) is that if enough respondents chose to do so then the Census Bureau might see the utility in creating a separate MENA category. NIAC Action and other Iranian-American groups recently encouraged Iranian Americans to submit public comments to the Office of Management and Budget in support of proposals for a MENA category on the census which could include the opportunity to check or write-in ‘Iranian’. However, these proposals have repeatedly been rejected by the Census Bureau, which says more research and testing is needed.
The 2018 Census will ask individuals who mark themselves as ‘White’ to also include their origins with the official prompt instructing respondents to “Print, for example, German, Irish, English, Italian, Lebanese, Egyptian, etc.” This is the first time the Census Bureau has sought clarification for the ‘White’ racial category and may be a result of an increase in Americans choosing to check the ‘Some Other Race’ category. But some critics warn this will only lead to confusing data.
As Iranian Americans, our hearts go out to all of those who were impacted by yesterday’s tragic earthquake that struck near the Iran-Iraq border. Initial reporting indicates that it is the deadliest earthquake of 2017, with hundreds dead and thousands injured, and many more who have lost everything. Like with prior earthquakes in Iran, the recovery and rebuilding is likely to be difficult.
Given the comprehensive trade embargo on Iran, Americans are likely to have questions regarding whether they will be able to assist in recovery efforts. While there are restrictions to navigate, the Treasury Department has licensed U.S. citizens to engage in certain activities to assist relief efforts in Iran following natural disasters. Below, we have detailed a brief Q&A, which we will update as the situation unfolds and we learn more about ongoing relief efforts.
The National Iranian American Council urges the Treasury Department to closely examine whether additional steps are needed to ensure that Americans can effectively contribute to relief efforts, and to issue any additional licenses necessary to ensure that U.S. sanctions do not stand in the way of urgent relief.
Frequently Asked Questions:
I am a resident of the United States and I want to help out with relief efforts in Iran, but don’t know if I can or how I can. How can I help out with the earthquake relief?
While the United States imposes a comprehensive trade embargo with Iran, you can lawfully engage in certain activities to help out relief efforts related to the earthquake in Iran. You can do the following:
- You can donate food, clothing, or medicine to Iran, provided that the donations are meant to relieve human suffering and are not directed to the Government of Iran, an Iranian bank, or any other restricted parties.
- You can make donations to a U.S. non-governmental organization (“NGO”) engaged in the provision of humanitarian services in or related to Iran, including in relief and reconstruction efforts related to the earthquake. U.S. persons would not be permitted to send funds directly to non-U.S. charitable organizations specifically intending those funds to be used for relief efforts in Iran.
- You can seek license authorization from the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) to engage in any other humanitarian-related activities related to the relief efforts in Iran.
I want to help out, but am nervous about running afoul of U.S. sanctions laws. Are there things that I definitely cannot do to support the relief efforts in Iran?
Yes. The United States imposes a comprehensive trade embargo with Iran, so most transactions between the two countries are prohibited absent an applicable exemption or license authorization. Those activities outlined above are either exempt from the trade embargo or are otherwise authorized. However, certain activities remain prohibited. For instance, the following activities remain prohibited under U.S. law:
- You cannot send funds directly to Iranian charitable organizations absent prior license authorization from OFAC. Such activity is currently prohibited under U.S. law and could expose you to civil or criminal liability as a result.
- You cannot send goods or technologies to Iran to help out with relief efforts other than those that fall under the OFAC exemption or those that are licensed by OFAC. The export of any prohibited goods or technologies to Iran is prohibited – even if such goods or technologies are intended for use in aiding relief efforts related to the earthquake in Iran.
Should I contact a lawyer before deciding to send funds or make a donation to Iran?
Because the U.S. trade embargo with Iran is exceptionally broad and prohibits most dealings between the two countries – including what would be regarded as innocuous – it is always a good idea to speak to legal counsel before engaging in a transaction in or related to Iran. However, due to the obvious need to act expediently to help out with relief efforts in Iran at this time, it would not necessarily be unreasonable to rely on the representations of a U.S.-based NGO providing humanitarian-related services to Iran that they are acting in compliance with U.S. sanctions laws.
Which U.S. charitable organizations might be planning relief efforts in Iran?
The following U.S. organizations have responded to previous natural disasters in Iran and are planning relief efforts in response to the 2017 earthquake:
We will update this list as additional information becomes available.
Washington, D.C. – Early this morning, Judge Theodore D. Chuang of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland issued a ruling in Iranian Alliances Across Borders (IAAB) v. Trump,blocking the Trump administration from implementing Muslim Ban 3.0, which was scheduled to go into full effect today. Judge Chuang’s ruling follows a hearing on Monday afternoon in his courtroom where the plaintiffs in IAAB v. Trump as well as two other related actions, requested a preliminary injunction.
In today’s ruling, which temporarily halts the implementation of the President’s order, Judge Chuang determined that Muslim Ban 3.0 likely violates the U.S. Constitution and federal immigration law. Judge Chuang relied on the long litany of anti-Muslim statements and comments by President Trump, concluding that this latest version is an “inextricable re-animation of the twice-enjoined Muslim ban.”
The plaintiffs in IAAB v. Trump are represented by Muslim Advocates, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and Covington & Burling LLP, in consultation with the National Iranian American Council (NIAC).
- Click here to read the complaint in IAAB v. Trump.
- Click here to read the motion for a preliminary injunction and supporting brief.
- Click here to read about several of the plaintiffs.
According to Shayan Modarres, legal counsel for the National Iranian American Council: “We applaud the court’s decision in blocking this unconstitutional third attempt at a Muslim Ban. This latest travel ban is little more than a dangerous effort to target Iranians and Muslims, unjustified by any credible national security concerns. The ban will have a real impact on real people’s lives, robbing families of moments they can never get back. The National Iranian American Council is resolute in seeing this hateful and unconstitutional policy never becomes law.”
According to Johnathan Smith, legal director of Muslim Advocates: “Today’s ruling reaffirms that religious discrimination and bigotry have no place in our country. We applaud Judge Chuang for recognizing that Muslim Ban 3.0 contravenes fundamental American values and does not make our country safer. We, however, are well aware that our work is not finished. We will continue to advocate against this unjust and discriminatory policy until it is finally and permanently relegated to the dustbin of history.
“So, for today, we celebrate. Tomorrow, we continue the fight.”
According to Mana Kharrazi, executive director of Iranian Alliances Across Borders: “Today is such a proud day for youth we serve at IAAB. When our members connect with family members, friends and community members from across the Iranian diaspora, it changes futures, enriches lives, and roots them in a meaningful sense of community and responsibility. Our youth spoke up in court and they won. When grounded in community and sense of justice, the young people of IAAB can even beat the most powerful man in the world.
“We know that the ban is not totally gone and that graduations, weddings, and family gatherings will continue to be interrupted, and that our youth will continue to face harassment and hostility. So we will continue to speak out against the ban and religious discrimination in all its forms.”
According to Richard B. Katskee, legal director of Americans United:“The Muslim ban in all its versions has never been about making America safer or protecting our people. It’s about discrimination, plain and simple. The ban violates fairness and equal treatment—concepts that are at the core of religious freedom. We’re pleased that the courts have once again recognized that fact.”
Judge Chuang’s ruling follows a temporary restraining order blocking implementation of Muslim Ban 3.0 issued by Hawaii Judge Derrick Watson in Hawaii v. Trump yesterday afternoon.
The National Iranian American Council is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening the voice of Iranian Americans and promoting greater understanding between the American and Iranian people.
Muslim Advocates is a national legal advocacy and educational organization that works on the frontlines of civil rights to guarantee freedom and justice for Americans of all faiths.
Iranian Alliances Across Borders is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, non-partisan organization founded in 2003. IAAB addresses issues of the Iranian diaspora by facilitating community building, developing ways to better understand what it means to be part of a diaspora community, and empowering members of the Iranian diaspora community to enhance connections with their new communities as well as maintain connections with their root community.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Trita Parsi
Washington, D.C. – The National Iranian American Council released the following statement regarding President Trump’s adjustments to the discriminatory Muslim Ban following 90 days of review:
“As many have warned, the Trump administration has now taken steps to make its Muslim ban targeting Iranians and other nationals permanent. Absent additional intervention from the courts, and a long-overdue intervention from the Republican-controlled Congress, the Trump administration will cement a racist and discriminatory campaign promise into official U.S. policy. This new Muslim Ban 3.0 is nothing but an extension of the same discriminatory policy first rolled out in January that is a fundamental challenge to American values of equality and tolerance. Once again, Trump has put his ego ahead of the security of the United States and the safety of the American people.
“Amending this ban does not change what its intent has been since its inception, which was clearly to ban Muslims. The Trump Administration has simply tried to make the President’s racist proclamation to ban all Muslims more palatable. The bottom line remains that Donald Trump is banning the family members of Iranian Americans and others from visiting the United States based on his own prejudice. By applying the ban to more people Trump has simply doubled down on his efforts to halt legal immigration, including temporary visits, to the greatest extent possible.
“This third iteration of the ban includes minor but wholly inefficient exceptions, including exempting Iranian students and exchange visitors from the ban under enhanced scrutiny. Family members will apparently be banned, in spite of a previous Supreme Court ruling preventing the Administration from banning persons with bona fide relations in the U.S. Iranian Americans who came to the land of the free never imagined that the U.S. would become a country that bars its doors and formally endorses and codifies xenophobic policies.
Trump’s new ban is not designed to make America safer, it’s designed to make Trump appear tougher. Banning entire nationalities from visiting the U.S. is absurd and will not make America more secure under any circumstances. The countries included in Trump’s latest ban are merely those with whom the US has bad relations, not from where threats have actually emanates. Iran, for instance, is a country that has very poor relations with the US and yet there is no credible threat from Iranians visiting the US. Not a single person has died on American soil due to an Iranian terror attack. 94% of all Americans killed on U.S. soil in acts of terror by a foreign national, were conducted by nationals of Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt. But the very real threat from radicalization taking place in Saudi Arabia is not addressed by Trump, nor is it eliminated by the information sharing that does take place between Washington and Riyadh. Trump’s new ban seems designed to make him look tough, but not designed to actually make America safer.
“In short, Trump’s new ban does not pass the 9/11 test: Had this measure been in place in 2001, it would not have prevented the 9/11 attack.
“While it has long been telegraphed, the fact that restrictions on Iranians were continued indefinitely is a perfect demonstration of why these ‘bans’ are terrible homeland security policy. Trump himself has praised Iranian Americans as ‘one of the most successful immigrant groups in our country’s contemporary history.’ Secretary of State Tillerson described the Iranian people as a ‘very well educated, very sophisticated population’ just this week. And, despite the fact that no Iranians or any other nationals included in Trump’s ban were responsible for any terror-related deaths on U.S. soil, Trump keeps trying to ban Iranians.
“We are confident that the courts will see through this disingenuous tactic of expanding the ban in order to dilute its clearly discriminatory motive. Casting a wider net only validates what we and others have always maintained, which is that the Muslim Ban was but the first step in a wider initiative to implement Islamophobic, racist, and xenophobic policies that pander to the desires of Trump’s White supremacist base. These are not ‘targeted’ restrictions but arbitrary ones that do not keep the country safer and soil our national reputation.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Shayan Modarres
Washington, D.C. – The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the Trump administration decision to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program today – a program with bipartisan support that has been wildly successful in every meaningful and measurable way.
“Today will be judged as one of the most reprehensible days in American history,” said Shayan Modarres, Legal Counsel for the National Iranian American Council. “President Trump’s issuance of executive orders to ban Muslims from the United States, and removal of protections for DREAMers – that know no other home but America and are now confronted with dehumanizing uncertainty – is not draining the swamp, it is dumping the greatness of America down the drain.”
In taking this immoral action, President Trump is removing protections for nearly 800,000 DACA recipients whose futures are now full of uncertainty and who could possibly face deportation. DACA recognized that these individuals are human beings and more American than a piece of paper could ever recognize.
“As a community of recent immigrants, Iranian Americans are very familiar with confronting anti-immigrant sentiments and policies,” said Modarres. “In fact, we are still fighting against the Muslim ban and its multiple components like ‘extreme vetting.’”
Since 2010, NIAC has advocated for Congress to pass the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. DREAMers include Iranians like Mohammad Abdollahi, an undocumented immigrant who was denied entrance into college despite qualifying credentials.
“Iranian Americans across the United States not only stand with DREAMers in unwavering solidarity, we quite literally are DREAMers,” said Modarres. “We will not allow the Trump administration to take us backwards as a nation – we will not allow him to destroy centuries of steady American progress in a matter of months.”
NIAC calls on Congress to immediately pass legislation that will protect DREAMers and provide for a pathway to citizenship. NIAC further urges our elected representatives to resist any invitation to use these inspirational young people as a political bargaining chip – Congress must do the right thing and immediately act to protect these young people.
Iranian American Organizations Condemn Violence and Bigotry Displayed by Hate Groups in Charlottesville, Virginia
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Shayan Modarres
Washington, D.C. – As organizations representing the Iranian-American community, we stand united in condemning – in the strongest possible terms – the violence and bigotry displayed by hate groups in Charlottesville, Virginia on Friday and Saturday.
We stand in solidarity with all who believe in the promise of America: that no matter where you come from or what you look like, we are all equal.
The display of hatred in Charlottesville, Virginia, that ultimately claimed three lives, has no place in America. The First Amendment allows for the freedom of expression, speech and peaceful assembly, but it does not tolerate or protect speech inciting violence, or the usage of shields and helmets, rifles, and other weapons in expressing that speech. And regardless of the illegality, as Americans, we stand unified against any person that prescribes to these hateful beliefs.
White supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazis or fascists are not patriots. They do not represent the ideals and values that America represents, nor the principles enshrined in our Constitution, and they must be unequivocally denounced and rejected by all who love this country and what it stands for.
President Trump’s failure of moral clarity and leadership as President of the United States must be denounced forthrightly and unequivocally. Morality knows no political party. Racism, bigotry, and violence of any form are intolerable and should be unequivocally condemned by our leaders.
We remain committed to combatting this hateful ideology, in all its forms, and will continue to work with our partners and allies in this fight towards equality and inclusiveness.
Iranian American Bar Association (IABA)
National Iranian American Council (NIAC)
Pars Equality Center
Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA)
Your right to enter the U.S. depends on whether you are a (1) U.S. citizen; (2) a “green card” holder (also known as a “lawful permanent resident” or “LPR”); or (3) a visa holder.
U.S. citizens have an absolute right to enter the U.S. The government must allow entry with proof of identity and citizenship. Showing an unexpired U.S. passport is normally sufficient.
Green card holders (LPRs) have a strong right to enter the U.S. CBP normally cannot refuse entry as long as the trip abroad was brief (usually 6 months or less) and innocent (which usually means no criminal issues). Otherwise, you may be subject to deportation.
IMPORTANT NOTE: CBP officers do not have the right to take away your immigration status; only an immigration judge has that authority. A green card holder (LPR) has the right to go before an immigration judge, who will decide whether or not to revoke the green card. Do not sign any document that you do not understand. You often will not immediately see a judge because of backlogs in the court. Depending on your case, you may or may not be detained in a detention center during this process. As such, consult with an immigration attorney before you travel.
Visa holders with valid travel documents to enter the U.S. are still inspected at the border. CBP officers can question you at the airport or border. If they find that you are not seeking to enter the U.S. for the purpose of your visa, or if there is a visa violation, they can refuse your entry into the U.S.
If CBP detains and prohibits you from entering the U.S., and you fear returning to your home country, you may want to tell the CBP agent of your fear of returning home. Doing so triggers the “Credible Fear Interview,” which requires CBP to determine if you have a legitimate fear. Claiming fear will start the asylum process and prohibits CBP from immediately making you return to your home country. However, you may be held in a detention center for several months until you can see an immigration judge. Alternatively, CBP may release you from the airport with paperwork on the next steps of your asylum case.
NOTE ON THE MUSLIM BAN: U.S. citizens, dual nationals, and green card holders (LPRs) are NOT included in the Muslim Travel Ban executive orders. Since February 1, 2017, the government has explicitly stated that green card holders (LPRs) are exempt. As of June 26 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court has also said that the Muslim Travel Ban cannot be enforced against foreign nationals who have a bona fide relationship (i.e. a particular kind of qualifying relationship) with a person or entity in the U.S. Please check for updates as the law is constantly evolving. This advisory does not fully cover the Muslim Travel Ban. Please see our organization websites for more information.
Going Through Customs
CBP has broad authority at the border and airport. This includes the ability to ask questions to decide whether non-U.S. citizens can enter the U.S. CBP officers can ask about your immigration status when you are entering and leaving the U.S., as well as routine customs questions about the nature and purpose of your travel.
U.S. citizens do not have to answer questions outside the scope of immigration status/presenting a valid passport and basic customs questions, but refusing to answer them may lead to delay.
- YES: The agent can ask questions to confirm you are who you say you are.
- YES: The agent can ask what countries you visited while you were abroad.
- YES: The agent can ask why you went to specific countries.
- YES: The agent can ask how much money you are taking/returning with.
- NO: The agent cannot ask you about your religion, your politics, or other irrelevant and inappropriate questions of this nature. If this happens, politely ask for a supervisor and try to remember the agent’s name and the questions you were asked.
If you are traveling to Iran to manage finances, land, property, or an inheritance, you may want to consult with an Iran sanctions attorney before you leave the U.S. (contact our organizations for a list of attorneys).
Green card holders (LPRs) have a lot of protections, but not as much as U.S. citizens. CBP can ask questions about your immigration status and routine questions about whether or not your trip was brief and innocent (see above). However, green card holders (LPRs) are not required to answer broader and intrusive questions (see above).
Visa holders have the least amount of protection, particularly non-immigrant visa holders. CBP can ask a range of questions to confirm: your identity; that you are coming to the U.S. for a legitimate reason; that you are not breaking the law by entering; and other related questions. Unfortunately, visa holders can be denied entry for not answering questions. Before you step off your flight, make sure to review the visa paperwork so that the answers to the CBP agent match the information on your application.
For all travelers, regardless of your immigration status, if a CBP officer asks questions beyond the scope of routine travels (such as questions about political beliefs, religious practices, or questions about family and community), you can ask to speak with a supervisor. You can also ask for the name and badge number of the CBP officer to file a complaint with U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Civil Rights & Civil Liberties. Contact our organizations for assistance.
If You Are Searched
There are two stages of inspection at the airport: primary and secondary. Everyone goes through primary inspection, where you go up to the CBP agent and show your passport and any immigration paperwork. If CBP pulls you aside and questions you further (usually in a different room and by a different agent), then you are in secondary inspection.
CBP does not allow attorneys into secondary inspection, but you should still have the name and number of your attorney with you and ask to contact her/him if you believe that your rights are being violated or you are being forced to answer questions that may incriminate you. Asking for an attorney cannot be used against you.
CBP has the authority to stop, detain, and search any person and any item at the border (which includes airports) and within 100 miles of the border. However, the U.S. Constitution prohibits searches or questioning solely because of national origin, ethnicity, race, religion, political beliefs, or gender. If you are stopped and searched for any of these reasons, you can politely object and state that you do not consent to a search. It is very important that you never physically resist a search. Instead, you can ask to speak with a supervisor and keep a record of the CBP agent’s name and badge number.
Recently, CBP agents have started searching electronic devices such as laptops, phones, etc. much more frequently. The law is currently unclear on the right to search laptops and cell phones at the border. Nevertheless, CBP will often ask travelers to unlock their devices to search them, even when they have no reason to think you did anything wrong.
U.S. citizens cannot be denied entry to the U.S. for refusing to provide access to their device, produce passwords, or submit their electronic devices for a search. Green card holders (LPRs) cannot be denied entry for the same activity unless the trip was not brief or innocent. While visa holders, particularly non-immigrant visa holders, can also refuse to provide access to their electronic devices, doing so may complicate their entry and result in denial of entry to the U.S.
A CBP agent can confiscate your electronic devices regardless of your immigration status. In such instances, write down the name and badge number of the CBP officer and ask for a receipt for your confiscated property. Contact one of our organizations for help.
If your passport, visa, or global entry is revoked, please seek legal assistance to confirm that it was properly revoked or to take action to get it reinstated. In certain cases, passports, visas, or global entry is revoked for discriminatory or accidental reasons and there are remedies available to you.
- Be honest. It is important to remain silent or tell the truth. Lying to a federal officer can be a federal crime. Even an accidental lie can lead to a federal criminal charge. For example, if you are asked about travels dates and accidentally give a wrong date, that may constitute lying to a federal officer.
- Do not sign any documents you do not understand. If you are asked to sign any documents by CBP, it is very important that you understand what you are signing to ensure you are not waiving your rights or immigration status.
- Ask for an interpreter if you are not fully comfortable communicating in English. If one is not available, tell the agent that you cannot answer questions in English because you don’t understand it well enough.
- Back up the data on your electronic devices before traveling. Please see the Electronic Frontier Foundation pamphlet Digital Privacy at the U.S. Border: Protecting the Data on Your Devices and in the Cloud.
- Consider using temporary devices when traveling. If you have to bring your main phone or laptop with you: i) log out of social media and email accounts; ii) check to make sure there is no information on your phone that you would not want an agent to see (e.g. photos, frequently visited websites, contacts); and iii) make sure you completely power down your device before you go in front of the agent (do not just close it or put it in sleep mode).
- Make sure to use strong passwords on your electronic devices (instead of fingerprint passcodes). Consider encrypting your entire device as well.
- If you have other questions about your rights, particularly relating to the FBI, please read the following Know Your Rights pamphlet that covers such topics.
Please contact us with any questions by clicking on the links below. We have Farsi speakers available at all organizations.
 This advisory is intended as a general reference only; it does not constitute legal advice, nor does it establish an attorney-client relationship. For specific questions, please contact our organizations to speak with an attorney.
 Immigration and Nationality Act 287(a)(3) states that CBP agents, without a warrant, may “within a reasonable distance from any external boundary of the United States… board and search for aliens in any vessel within the territorial waters of the United States and any railcar, aircraft, conveyance, or vehicle.” The term “reasonable distance” is defined by 8 Code of Federal Regulations 287(a)(1) as 100 air miles from the U.S. border.
 Note: In Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington (state), CBP has to have “reasonable suspicion” to conduct a forensic search of a digital device (a detailed search using special equipment).
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congress took its first vote on the Muslim ban yesterday, as an amendment to protect family members from the Muslim ban was voted down by Republican legislators 23-29. The amendment, introduced by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), was offered during a markup of the Homeland Security Appropriations bill and would have would barred the Trump administration from banning close familial relations under the Muslim ban. In addition, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced, but later withdrew after an objection from a Republican lawmaker, an amendment that would go even further by defunding implementation of the entire Muslim ban.
The Pocan amendment would have restricted funding in the DHS Appropriations bill from being used to implement the Executive Order against an individual who is a parent, spouse, fiancé, son, daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, or cousin of a United States citizen or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States. Nearly all Republicans on the committee voted against the amendment, except for Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA). Rep. Dent was an early supporter of nuclear negotiations with Iran.
The Trump administration is currently implementing a version of the ban that was narrowed by a temporary Supreme Court ruling that the ban could move forward but could not be applied to persons with “bona fide” relations with an American person or entity. The Trump administration interpreted that ruling to exclude grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles and other close familial relations from being exempt from the ban. Today, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that grandparents and other family members of U.S. persons could indeed not be subject to the ban.
Pocan noted the importance of the amendment because the ban’s “arbitrary determination leaves countless people facing the humiliation of navigating a series of arbitrary rules that devalue family relationships.”
“We have the opportunity to broaden that [familial] relationship to match what the courts in Hawaii have decide,” Pocan added in support of his amendment.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) noted that “One of the greatest treasures that we have in life and one that unites all of humanity is our desire to be with our close family,” going on to state, “I strongly support Mr. Pocan’s amendment to ensure that grandparents, in-laws and other close relatives can visit their U.S. relatives.”
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), ranking member of the Homeland Security subcommittee, also voiced support for the Pocan amendment, stating that the amendment was necessary because “the admin took a narrow view of who counted as close relatives.”
Homeland Security subcommittee chairman John Carter (R-TX) was the only Republican who spoke on either amendment, rising in opposition to both the Lee amendment and Pocan amendment. According to Carter, the Muslim ban restrictions “are a valid exercise of the President’s authority.”
The Barbara Lee Amendment would have gone even further than the Pocan Amendment and would have restricted funding in the DHS Appropriations bill from being used to implement any element of the Muslim ban Executive Order.
According to Lee, her amendment “would prevent funds from being used to implement this very heartless Executive Order because [the ban] is just dangerous and un-american.”
The votes come in spite of the fact that not a single person has been killed in the US by a terrorist attack committed by people from the countries subjected to Trump’s ban.
The amendment vote is a major milestone as it was the first vote on the ban since it was enacted in January. Republican legislators have blocked a vote to rescind the ban on the House and Senate floor, and no hearing has been held on the ban despite its extensive impact on the Iranian-American community and other communities.