On January 27, 2017 Donald Trump signed an executive order barring people from seven majority Muslim countries from entering the United States. The decision sent the nation into a state of confusion, fear, and chaos. Within 24 hours, thousands of peaceful protesters had gathered across the country, swarming airports in New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago, among dozens of other cities, while green card and visa holders were detained, questioned, and prohibited from continuing with their travel plans into the United States
Travelers abroad feared they would be unable to return home. Refugees seeking asylum feared being sent back to states overrun with extreme violence and turmoil. American citizens and residents were sent into panic, unsure of when they'd be able to see their family members again. While the anger of those who opposed the ban grew, so did the confusion surrounding the policy. After a week, a Seattle federal judge put a nationwide block on the order, and the Department of Homeland Security suspended enforcement of the ban.
As the nation—and the world—waited for Trump's promised revised ban, many people wrote to us, sharing their outrage; others we met at protests, strikes, and rallies across the US and abroad. All of them expressed their anger, their fear, and often their hope for a dramatic change.
One of those voices is that of Farideh Sakhaeifar, a political refugee and artist from Tehran who now lives in Brooklyn. After completing her undergraduate degree in Iran, she decided to pursue graduate school at Cornell University, where she knew she would not be legally prosecuted for the political and social commentary she brings to her work. She has since been both a visiting scholar and artist at NYU and the New School while frequently exhibiting her artwork throughout New York.
Now, with no visa and a pending immigration status, her future is one giant, looming question mark. "One morning you wake up and realize maybe you should not plan long-term," she told Broadly. If Sakhaeifar's visa is not approved, she does not know where she will go, as the nature of her artwork makes returning to Iran very dangerous. Her parents, who were scheduled to visit her in April, have had to put their plans on pause while awaiting Trump's revised reinstatement of the travel ban, which was signed yesterday, and still bars citizens from six Muslim-majority countries from attaining visas and halts the US refugee program.
The only way to actually fix the Muslim ban is not to have a Muslim ban.
Unfortunately, Sakhaeifar's story is just one of countless others; the order has drastic and widespread effects, and human rights organizations like the ACLU and Human Rights Watch were quick to release statements condemning it. Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, reacted to the new order yesterday: "The Trump administration has conceded that its original Muslim ban was indefensible. Unfortunately, it has replaced it with a scaled-back version that shares the same fatal flaws. The only way to actually fix the Muslim ban is not to have a Muslim ban."
From protests that erupted continuously across the country to the lawyers who voluntarily showed up at airports, working pro bono for those detained—the national fervor against Trump's order did not dull in the weeks after it was first signed.The international outcry was resounding and only helped to put pressure on courts to call the constitutionality of the order into question. Sakhaeifar describes the mental toll that this policy has taken on her as "humiliating," but says she has found comfort in organizing and voicing her disapproval. "It's very helpful to talk about these issues," she says. "It makes me feel like this is home, [like] people care about me, [like] people care about immigrants."
This is why we are publishing these testimonies—which were collected in the traumatic, panic-filled days following the first Muslim ban—today: with hope that, again, this outcry will be heard and heeded to.
Reporting by: Lindsay Schrupp, Leila Ettachfini, Sarah Hagi, Linda Yang, Brandon John, Alice Zoo, Justin Boruta, and Melanie Metz.