February 29, 2020

NIAC Statement on Coronavirus Ban on Iranians

Jamal Abdi, President of the National Iranian American Council, issued the following statement after President Trump issued a new order banning Iranian nationals and recent travelers to Iran following the outbreak of Coronavirus, or COVID-19, in the country:

“We are concerned by the President’s announcement to subject Iranian nationals to yet another ban on their travel to the United States, along with other nationals who have recently traveled to Iran. Unlike the Muslim ban imposed entirely on the basis of the President’s bigotry, this one appears to be based at least in part on public safety concerns. Iran has turned into an epicenter of the Coronavirus thanks to the inept response of the Iranian government, which initially sought to play down the spread of the virus, and crushing U.S. sanctions that have limited Iran’s ability to import medical devices and medicine.

“The administration needs to clearly outline why this decision was made, and whether it is applying the same punishing measures evenly to all countries that are suffering serious outbreaks. The administration’s long history of animosity toward Iran, which is referenced in the President’s proclamation, and its punishing policies that have harmed the Iranian people gives many just cause to doubt the administration is approaching this issue with good faith. 

“While there is an exception for green card holders and certain family members of U.S. citizens, we remain concerned that it will be next to impossible for Iranian nationals to exercise the waivers under the Coronavirus ban, especially in light of the Muslim ban’s sham waiver process. 

“Moreover, we have heard little to no details regarding how the administration will treat U.S. citizens in Iran. The administration should engage in efforts, potentially through the Swiss embassy, to ensure the repatriation of American citizens at risk of being exposed to Coronavirus in Iran and ensure their safe return.

“Lastly, the administration must do far more to combat the spread of Coronavirus in Iran. It is unacceptable for the administration to simply reverse a September decision to deliberately target humanitarian trade, and offer assistance but fail to follow through. The administration has a moral obligation to take more proactive measures to ease sanctions inhibiting humanitarian trade – including by publishing a forward-leaning general license and FAQ specifically dealing with Coronavirus relief – and ensure that relief is not just offered but delivered.”

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