There’s no way yet of knowing how many people living in British Columbia are affected by President Donald Trump’s executive order preventing citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S., but it’s likely in the tens of thousands.
The order signed on Friday and effective immediately halts travel into the United States for anyone who holds a passport in Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Syria and Yemen – and that includes Canadians with dual citizenship.
Airlines and airports around the world are already turning away passengers hoping to travel into the U.S. while thousands more are having to cancel future trips to the U.S. for business, leisure or to visit loved ones.
A substantial proportion of Iranian-Canadians live in Metro Vancouver – a population estimated to be over 36,000. Thousands more hold passports from the other six countries.
Global News spoke with several locals who are now affected by the travel ban, some whom have lived in Vancouver since age four and others who will now be unable to visit sick loved ones in the U.S. All of them are scared for the future.Murtadha Al-Tameemi can no longer see his family, who made it out of Iraq as refugees to be close to him
Murtadha Al-Tameemi left war-torn Iraq as a teenager when he was given the opportunity to complete his final year of high school in Minnesotta. Living with an American host family, Al-Tameemi was greatly encouraged by the community to attend post-secondary school and ended up at UBC where he studied computer engineering. That skill eventually led him to work for Facebook in Seattle. Meanwhile, his family in Iraq fled the country in 2013 and arrived in Vancouver to settle two years later.
Now finally living only 200 kilometres apart, Al-Tameemi has been virtually locked into the U.S. under Trump’s executive order, and his family’s been locked out.
“One of the first impacts of this executive order is that I can’t see my family,” he told Global News through tears.
Al-Tameemi was in Vancouver earlier in the week to see his younger brother perform in a play. It was at that moment when he received a call from his lawyer warning him that Trump was about to sign an immigration ban that would lock him out of the U.S.
“The lawyer said ‘you might not be able to come back if you don’t come back right now,’ and that would mean I might lose my job, and my status in the U.S. and lose my life in the U.S. It wasn’t a decision I took lightly.”
Having missed so much of his brother’s life due to their separation, he took the risk to stay for the play and made it back through U.S. immigration just two days before the order was signed. Now he’s had to cancel all future travel plans out of the country, including a trip to Africa he was supposed to take for work next week.
As an Iraqi, Al-Tameemi says he’s always felt “sub-human” when it comes to crossing borders. He’s constantly been pulled aside in airports, questioned extensively and searched because of his Iraqi passport. He’s gone from tighter and tighter border controls to now being banned altogether.
But miraculously, that hasn’t swayed how he feels about the American people. He says he’s been flooded with messages of support from friends, colleagues and strangers since the executive order was signed on Friday. He still considers the U.S. home
“I consider myself part of this country. I consider it home. I take an interest in the well-being and safety of it as well.”
For now, Al-Tameemi and his family will remain separated by nothing but a signature on a piece of paper.
Sana Shahram isn’t “the scary image you see on the news”
Born and raised in B.C., Sana Shahram is now facing consequences of holding an Iranian passport. A postdoctoral research fellow for Centre for Addictions Research of B.C., she is now having to cancel a trip to Las Vegas she had planned with old friends.
“I’m in shock to wake up this morning and find out I’m considered a public enemy,” she told Global News.
Her airline, WestJet, will be refunding her flight, and she’s not sure about the hotel booking. But those are just the material costs of Donald Trump’s new policy, she says. Her larger worry is the sudden discrimination she’s burdened with just because of her ethnicity.
“It has just struck me to my core to be singled out and discriminated in this way. I’m overwhelmed with sadness, anger, shame, outrage,” Shahram said.
Her husband, who is Caucasian and of Scottish descent, is also outraged at how his wife has been targeted.
She says her problems in the face of this news are minute compared to many others’, including family she has in Iran.
“My heart is truly breaking for the people dealing with much worse harms and hardships than me. The refugees and immigrants who’ve waited years, who’ve jumped through countless hoops, who’ve put their lives on hold for this one purpose and to have that taken away from them in an instant under the guise of American security is so devastating.
As a citizen and resident of B.C., Shahram has spent her adult life promoting and protecting the rights of marginalized people in Canada. She’s civically engaged, volunteers in the community, helps people with addictions and works to support health equity in the public health system.
“I’m not some scary image you see on the news. I’m your friend, your neighbour, your co-worker, your peer – and I’m being banned from entering a country for no logical reason.”
She says sharing her story is one of the only things she can actively do to reject this policy. Adding her face to the dialogue on the issue, she maintains, is one way to show why policies and discrimination based on religion, race and sexuality are “completely wrong.”
“I think it’s important for people like me to speak out.”Bana Nourkeyhani has lived in Canada for 20 years, but is still banned from entering the U.S. just due to her ethnicity
Nourkeyhani was born in Tehran, Iran but moved to North Vancouver when she was four years old. Now at age 24, with no criminal record, she is banned from entering the United States due to her race.
“I fear that history is repeating itself in the most horrific way possible, one day at a time,” she told Global News.
Nourkeyhani holds both a Canadian and Iranian passport, but even her 20 years living in Canada won’t make a difference when it comes to Trump’s executive order.
“I was aware that Trump mentioned many times that he would put a ban on Muslims and register them,” she said. “I just thought that maybe he would do his research before going through with it to realize that what he is doing is inhumane. I didn’t expect it to be this severe, this horrific, this despicable.”
Nourkeyhani was planning on going to Seattle in April, but will have to cancel those plans now. She also fears how her many family and friends will be negatively affected.
Behbod Negahban, a Yale student, can’t visit his sick father at home in Coquitlam without walking away from his education
Behbod Negahban, a Yale University political science student, wants nothing more than to make a trip back to his native Coquitlam to visit his father who was recently diagnosed with bladder cancer.
But he fears he won’t be allowed back into the U.S. to continue his studies. His only crime – being born in Iran.
He left Iran when he was just two years old and settled in Coquitlam, a place he calls home. He hasn’t even visited in Iran in the past 10 years.
“I feel a lot of guilt,” says Negahban. “I want ask [my father] how he’s doing in person.”
“I’d like to see [my family] in person as soon as possible, but for fear of not being able to re-enter the country, I’m not sure if I can do that.”
The 20- year-old Canadian-Iranian is anxious about his future. He says he’s poured so much of himself into getting into Yale and now he doesn’t know what else “Trump’s America might have in store” for him.
He feels like he’s being forced to choose between his family and continuing his studies in the United States.
“I’m angry for the people I know here, Iranian and otherwise, visiting students and permanent residents who’ve been separated from their families or livelihoods or both.”
Negahban, who is on a student visa, says there’s a lot of uncertainty right now and that makes him feel “powerless.”
He never thought leaving Canada to pursue higher education in the U.S. would prevent him from seeing his family, especially at a time when his family needs him the most.Sahar Salehi feels like lesser of a human being
Sahar Salehi fled Iran with her family when she was just one year old. Because of the situation in the country at the time, they had to walk from a city in Iran all the way to Turkey in the snow, fearful that their footprints would leave behind a trail and lead their ultimate capture. After arriving in Canada as refugees, her family became citizens and have lived here ever since.
Now at 21 years old, Salehi dreams of moving to the U.S. after she graduates from nursing school to work and live with her close cousin and relatives. But Trump’s travel ban as potentially shattered that dream.
While the ban has been set at 90 days initially, there is no telling whether or not it will be extended indefinitely. Salehi says the executive order has broken her heart.
“I would do anything to be able to go and visit my cousin and all of my family in San Diego. Trumps actions have in a way ruined my plans for the future.”
It’s also changed how she sees humanity.
“The ban has made me feel lesser of a human being. Before this, I felt just the same as all of my friends who are Canadian citizens and born here, but now I feel like an outsider.”
Salehi was supposed to vacation in the U.S. in February with another Canadian friend, but will now have to cancel the trip. Her more permanent plans to move down south are now on hold.Nilie Mobini’s long-distance relationship just got a lot harder
“Not for the life of me, I thought as a Canadian, that I wouldn’t be allowed back in.”
Nilie Mobini arrived in Los Angeles just before the ban officially went into effect to visit her boyfriend, Daniel Klein, an American currently in his third year of medical school.
Now she fears this trip could be her last.
“I’m in utter shock,” she says.
Mobini, an optometrist, left Iran at a young age with her family in hopes of a better life in Canada.
Klein and Mobini met by chance when they were staying at the same hostel in Northern Chile two years ago. They started their first conversation just minutes before an 8.2-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Chile.
Klein jokingly says Mobini “rocked his world” when they met.
“I thought long distance is hard. I thought everything we were doing was beyond imagination to make something so difficult work,” Mobini says. “And little did I know that it was only going to get more horrific beyond anything that I would ever even known to have fear about.”
Like many others in her situation, Mobini doesn’t understand why this is even happening.
“Why am I as a Canadian not allowed to come visit the U.S.?” she asks.