Former Iranian recruits say they are unfairly blocked from traveling to the United States

Los Angeles (AP) — Two years ago, Leili Ghazi stopped studying biomedical engineering in Iran and seized the opportunity to travel to the United States to build a new life for herself and her parents.

Today, the 22-year-old father is indefinitely away from his family more than 20 years ago, as the US government performed the necessary military service to recruit a branch of the Iranian army that declared a foreign terrorist organization a few years later. This designation prohibits anyone associated with the group from traveling to the United States, including their father.

“He had to do some clerical work and work on building plans,” said Gazi, who has been anxious and depressed since he moved to Southern California. She expected her parents to eventually join her, but later learned that her father was forced to stay behind her. “He wasn’t active in going to war, etc. That wasn’t the case.”

Traveling to the United States for Iranians has long been a challenge, and visa applicants often wait months or years for their background checks to be cleared. However, since the Trump administration designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization in 2019, those who have served in the branch have been given visas to travel to, even if they have played a role of recruitment or non-combat. It’s almost impossible to get. united states of america.

Many Iranian-Americans and their families wanted the Biden administration to reverse the designated direction so that those recruited could still travel. They say nothing about which branch they are assigned to when Iranian men want to get a passport to leave the country, and serve mainly when doing basic tasks such as painting and clerical work. He states that he is forced to do.

However, their hopes were shattered in late April when US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that he had no plans to remove the designation except for the change in Iran. In his statement in front of US lawmakers, he admitted that conscription was the most affected, and that “the real bad guys have no intention of traveling.”

“There should be exceptions, but so far there are no exceptions,” said Ally Bolour, a Los Angeles immigration lawyer who filed a lawsuit over how the designation applies. “It’s unfair for the US government to throw towels at everything and bring everyone together. It’s lazy.”

The United States has designated a long list of foreign terrorist organizations dating back to the 1990s, such as Hamas and the Shining Pass of Peru. However, the group is almost entirely a civilian militia, not a state-owned entity like the IRGC that recruits under the law.

The Secretary of State may also, in consultation with the Attorney General and the Treasury Secretary, be reviewed by Parliament to designate a group and revoke it. For example, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia was listed as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997 and was delisted in 2021.

Providing support and resources to foreign terrorist organizations, non-US citizens may not be able to enter the country legally and may face deportation. In addition, the financial institution that manages these groups’ funds must retain ownership of the funds and report to US authorities.

A US State Department spokesperson could not immediately tell the number of former Iranian recruits who had visa applications affected by the designation. A spokeswoman said the application would be reviewed individually and in some cases exemptions could apply. The designation “is an effective means of playing an important role in the fight against terrorism, reducing support for terrorist activities and putting pressure on the group to get out of the terrorist business,” a spokesman said.

However, immigration lawyers said they were responding to a large number of calls from former drafts dealing with the issue and did not believe there were exceptions. Scott Emerick, a lawyer working with Bolour, said he had received hundreds of calls and believed that the government could make exceptions to drafts that were not voluntarily recruited.

Taher Kameli, a Chicago lawyer who also filed a lawsuit, said he was calling daily from people asking how the designation would affect them. He said he did not believe the U.S. government could list the armed forces of other countries as foreign terrorist organizations, and that past administrations also had problems with the branch and declined to designate it because of the consequences. Stated.

“We are not saying what the IRGC is right or wrong, we are just saying that the way the designation is made is wrong,” the rule influenced. Kameri, who represents an Iranian-born US-educated doctor, said.

Fallout from designation extends far beyond the United States. The Iranians said the United States is sharing data about travelers with countries in Europe and Canada, and they are also afraid that travel there will be blocked.

Some Iranian-born Canadians said they faced further scrutiny when they previously traveled quickly and easily across national borders. Amir Abolhassani, a 41-year-old engineer, said he had traveled to the United States many times without problems as a Canadian citizen, but was recently stopped by authorities on a trip to North Carolina and the company was planning to relocate him. New job.

Abol Hassani was told more than 10 years ago that he couldn’t go because of conscription. He said the conscription system consisted of two months of basic training and the design of the branch’s water pipes. He said he needed services so that he could be randomly assigned and he could get a passport and leave the country to continue his education.

Currently, he and his wife have already sold their home to move, but are in dire straits because they cannot get a visa.

“The worst part is that they tell you you are a terrorist,” Abol Hasani said. “We came out of the country because we opposed their policies and their actions. And now,” you belong to that system, you belong to that system, and you are our list. It’s part of the organization that did it. The terrorist organization. “—It’s very unjustified. It’s intolerable. “

This designation also weighs heavily on Iranian citizens who have lived in the United States with a green card for many years and want to become American citizens.

Paris Etemadi Scott is the Legal Director of the PARS Equality Center in San Jose, California, providing legal and social services to immigrants from Persian-speaking countries and other countries.

She is currently telling most clients, or their spouses, who served in the disputed branch to rethink applying for naturalization. When they go to the interview, they face a barrage of additional questions and are forced to sign. A detailed statement under the oath of their old military service.

“I thought this was Trump, but obviously nothing has changed,” she said. “I tell them,’I don’t have the stamina to experience this ordeal anymore. I encourage you to wait.”

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