Separate Visas, the Muslim Ban, and the Dream of a Home Together
by Afshin Shadmehr
Maria was a successful student from an educated family who grew up in Iran until she was twenty-seven years old, when she decides to visit other countries with his husband, and to make their decision about where they want to live and how they want to spend the rest of their life. Tom is a Physician and he was born in an educated family as well. He is very patient, kind and humble. Maria is really hardworking and successful scientist and researcher who passed all of her exams as a top-ranked student. Since she was a child, she been through many stressful situations like the Iran Revolution in 1979, and the eight-year Iran-and-Iraq War. Since she was a juvenile, she had many challenges with their high school principal about wearing her Hijab and Konkour at the most important exam in Iran, which would determine her socio-economic situation as a dentist. This was the beginning of her journey. Her father worked at electronic power plants and built many power plants in different areas of Iran, so he had to travel most of his time. They were living in Shiraz, as a large ancient city in Iran, and they had a luxurious life there. Living in a penthouse with a mountain view with a life of relaxation, massages, hot tubs and travel to other countries for fun was her normal life after she married Tom. Most of the time, Maria was angry because of events happening around them and Tom usually tried to make her feel calm. The question throughout life has been: how has Maria and Tom’s concept of home developed and how can they can manage these situations? Will immigration affect their life? People wish to live like them, but can they enjoy their life? She always thinks about the lack of freedom, the 1979 Revolution, many poems of the Islamic candidate, and wonders whether any of them were trustful, and the war, which lasted for eight years, ruined cities and killed many people. All of these stressful situations have made her angry to the point that they haven’t had a sense of peace and hope in home. This pushed them to move to the US.
They had a lovely life but they aren’t happy; they always thought about moving to the US to seek happiness and peace like their home. In February 2014, they went to the US embassy in Dubai to apply for the US visas and visited the US. Maria’s visa was issued but the officer told Tom, “After the FBI check, we will issue your visa,” so he had to wait for clearance. He had no any idea when it would be issued. In the summer of 2014, Maria decided to visit the US to have fun and rest. Tom agreed with her. She enjoyed her amusing journey to the US and spent $30,000 in thirty days. When she was in the US, she didn’t care about money because Tom was rich, and she had gotten a job recently so she was making money as well. On her trip to the US, she enjoyed it, and was happy. She rented a car, visited Florida and California, enjoyed visiting Disney Land, went skydiving, and really liked it I the US. She even felt a sense of home and wished in her heart to live in the US and have a new life there.
In 2015, Maria knew that she wanted to live in the US, and tried to find a job and prepare herself for a new life; she was completely determined in her decision and Tom always supported her and her idea. She applied for a visa and it was approved again, but Tom still was waiting for his first visa. Then she came to the US and tried to make a connection with dental schools to apply for a dentistry program. She tried for Marquette University in Milwaukee and they offered her an interview. Maria called Tom and they were so happy about that. Tom said that one of his friends, Mark, lived there and she could meet him if she liked. After visiting Mark on the last weekend of July, they called Tom and talked for about an hour. They were so happy, especially Maria, as she imagined herself in dental school and her future life in the US. On Friday afternoon, Maria and Mark visited Milwaukee. It was a beautiful city, especially in the warm summer. Winter is so cold there. They spent the evening at a bar, near Mark’s home, and then they went back home late at night and Mark tried to have sex with her. It was the worst moment in her life, and she was thinking that her new home, which she was happy about having, was ruined completely.
In Iran, Tom was seeing his patients and running his business, and continued to enjoy and have fun in his home. He rented their large penthouse to his friend Ana and tried to stay with his family to save money. Tom and Maria contacted each other every day and Maria would explain the whole day to him in detail. But Maria still wasn’t brave to talk to Tom about that night. He asked Maria about renting a home and she agreed with him. Tom was imagining having the same apartment in New York City and playing with their future children and their pets in their penthouse, so they could have a happy and fun family life. However, the situation, especially for Maria, had changed even though Tom didn’t know that. He was still thinking about having a great family in the US, but would they be successful? What would happen in their future life and how happy would they be together?
In the last days of July, when Maria still was in the US, Tom worked hard to make money. He spent most of his time at the hospital. Ana was living in Tom’s penthouse. She had invited Tom’s friends to the penthouse for his birthday party. Two couples were common friends with Ana. She decided to throw him a surprise party. She called Tom and set an appointment to ask pay him rent. They met together in front of Tom’s penthouse and Ana asked him to join them at a party. He joined them and suddenly understood that it was his birthday party. He was really surprised and was happy that his friends had visited. They were drinking, dancing and had fun until late at night, so Ana told them: “Guys, you are all drunk. I will be more than happy if you rest here tonight and leave tomorrow.” In the morning, they left, and his friends noticed that Tom had left them in the middle of the night, when Ana wanted to have sex with him. He was drunk but he knew that he had to leave. He was really surprised about how Ana had let herself trespass over his private borders. He was thinking about Maria and how he loved her. He was thinking of how hard Maria was trying for their life and he left home after Ana tried to overpass his privacy. He just was imagining what could he do to recover his life even in Iran or the US.
When Maria was accepted into Marquette University, she was confused about whether to go back home or stay in the US for the next year because if she went back home, there wouldn’t be any guarantee that the embassy would issue another visa for her. But she was emotionally traumatized and needed family support. She especially knew that after starting to study at the university, she wouldn’t have free time, so then it would be too hard to come back home and visit her family. The US doesn’t have an embassy in Iran, and the US and the Iranian governments have had many problems since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, so she had to stay in the US for at least three years. She went back home and Tom was happy to see her again and had hoped to recover their lovely relationship. He didn’t tell Maria anything about Ana but forced Ana to empty the penthouse and she did. It was just after returning to Maria that Ana threatened his relationship with Maria and told him that she would share his photos with Maria, which she mentioned. She had edited some of the birthday photos and tried to incriminate him. She sent the photos to him and threated that she would send them to Maria and would tell her that they had had an affair. Tom was thinking about it and just kept her in an intermediate position because Maria had already spent her security deposit and he didn’t have money to return it to her, and was waiting for Maria to came back and talk together face-to-face because he still had hopes to recover their life. It’s true that they were angry because of all of what was happening, but they were still in love, which helped them fight for their life together.
After returning to their home, Maria was brave and shared her story with Tom. They were both angry but what should they do about it? It is not good to answer anger with anger. Tom tried to make her calm and it was a good opportunity to share his story with her. But he was worried about Maria’s reaction. Tom tried to support her more. It was around January that Tom’s first visa was issued by the embassy and Tom decided to visit the US. Maria explained her trip in detail and Tom as usual loved her especially when she explained it to him precisely. He decided to leave his home country in July, and worked hard to save more money to pay off Ana’s security deposit as well. He was at the clinic and was seeing patients when Maria texted him and asked him about his relationship with Ana. He suddenly understood that Ana had shared the photos with Maria. At that point, he wished he had shared his story with Maria earlier because now, convincing Maria would be so difficult. He didn’t know how much it would take to arrive home and talk to Maria to convince her. At that point, Tom tried to support Maria by not telling her Ana’s story, but now she was really traumatized, and Tom was worried about her and her situation. This kind of situation usual for people that try to move to other countries and let others ruin their lives just for their own benefit. What about the role of ethics in their home and how hard would it be for them to recover their home again?
Two months later, in July 2016, Tom left his home to visit the US. He had visited many countries before, but it was the first time that he was visiting the US. Everything was perfect for him as he landed at Chicago airport. One of his friends picked him up him and after about a month, he rented an apartment. He started buying home furniture. He was waiting for Maria to join him. It was the first week of August and Maria’s class would start on the 8th of August. Maria and Tom worried about her visa. She contacted the university and they told him they didn’t have any authority to interfere. They could just ask the embassy to prioritize her application. Maria was so worried about it, all of her dreams of having a new home in the US were hinged on this visa. Tom was so nervous about her. She had two days to start her classes and she didn’t get her visa. Could the university postpone her acceptance? She contacted the university and they told her that they were so sorry to hear that, but they unfortunately had to substitute another student from the waiting list. Even if they had issued her visa, right now, it would have taken about two days to move to the US. That day passed like a terror for her and she didn’t get any good news from the embassy or university. She was so upset. Her mother tried to calm her and Tom called her the whole day. The next morning, she got an email from the university; she was really happy, but unfortunately they told her that they had to choose another one from the waitlist. She was shocked that all of her dreams were ruined again. She decided to go to the US embassy in Armenia. Tom contacted one of his friends to book a ticket for her and finally, she got a ticket. On the morning that she decided to fly to Yerevan, she got an email from her program director saying that they had postponed the starting date and she still had a chance to join the program. She went to the embassy and finally she was able to secure the visa, but she didn’t have time to go back home and had to go straight to Chicago from Armenia. After three days, she could finally register at the university. On her flight to the US, she was thinking about the tragedy that had happened to them. Was it worth challenging their life and changing their home? She couldn’t hug her mother for the last time before leaving home. How happy they would be and what would happen to them? She wished at least could have her mother in the US so then she could feel life there more.
Finally, she started her education and tried to make life the US calm and peaceful for herself and for Tom. Three to four months later, the US was preparing for the presidential election and she wished for a democrat candidate be elected because they cared more about people and their welfare instead of money. They wanted to at least share some percent of their money and welfare with other people. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen, and the Republican candidate was chosen. Then, the “Muslim Travel Ban decision” was made and certainly they were stuck in their new home. She was thinking about what their goal would be living here. They had everything in their back home: their family, penthouse, office, secure job, housemaid, fantasy and everything. They just didn’t have freedom, but after the travel ban, they didn’t have anything. Do they have the freedom to move out, visit their family and their mother, or can they even apply for their families to come to the US just to visit? It’s ridiculous. They have sacrificed their money, their life, their family and even their relationship to come to the US and now they are stuck there. They always thought of the US as a goal for people that are honest, trustful and hardworking, and a dream place to follow their goals. Maria was shocked and was so depressed. She couldn’t even hug her mother for the last time; she needed to hug her. She couldn’t find this sense in Tom, especially after all of the catastrophic happenings in their relationship. What had they sacrificed for their gain? She even thought about her career. She had been an Associate Professor at Shiraz University, and right now, she was studying the same material that she used to teach them. Those days were really stressful for them, and they were suppressed because they saw that their dreamland and their new home were going to be ruined.
After all of these tragic happening, she still had hopes to visit her home, her family. It was the last year of her studies as a prosthodontist at Marquette University and she was hoping to find an opportunity to go back home and visit her family. The last time that her student visa was issued, the embassy had allowed her to go back and forth between the US and her home multiple times. She talked with her program director and asked her to have days off in January to visit her family. After visiting them, she tried to come back earlier to finish her research earlier. She had a ticket from Istanbul to Chicago. She went from Tehran to Istanbul a day earlier to catch the plane on time. In the morning, when she tried to get the plane, they didn’t let her board the plan. She was shocked because she had double-checked everything and asked her attorney about it. She asked them to talk with their supervisor and he told her that unfortunately, one week earlier, all of the multiple visas issued before 2017 became not valid and she had to go to the embassy for is a new visa. What would happen to her future life and what should she do to fix this problem?
The next day she went to the embassy, and asked the ambassador to help her continue her education, continue her life and continue living in her dream home. He told her that she was lucky because she had a student visa. She could have her status in the US, but she should fill out another application and it would take time because at this time women had an FBI and background check. She applied for another visa and went back to Iran. When she talked to her lawyer, she told her that she was lucky that hadn’t applied for a green card. If she had applied for a green card and had this situation, her chance would have been almost zero because she couldn’t have applied for a nonimmigrant visa after applying for a green card until the USCIS approved or rejected your application. She was strangled because she didn’t know finally whether she was lucky or not. There has been a lot of drama for her but she still wants to have the US as her home.
After reviewing their story, they are completely shocked that how so many tragic happenings have come together to make or destroy life and how angriness can affect their decisions. “Disappointment and angriness [will have a] future effect” for people who live after the war (Jackson). It completely makes sense that after some catastrophic happening, people become angry. There are “five normal reactions” that will happen after a loss (Junger). This can be part of ordinary life, but the reaction in the body will be different based on the personality and impulse control. “Denial, anger, bargaining, depression” are four emotional steps that people pass through (Easterlin). But what is the last step? Can emotional reactions affect life? How well we can handle them? And what is the next step for them? Acceptance and problem management are the two final steps that can decide their fate based on these two steps. Usually, people pass through these steps, but sometimes people are “stacked with emotional events” (Czarna). As long as they dodn’t pass through them, managing these happenings takes time more. And this is the reality that Maria and Tom should accept in order to overcome their problems and have a happy life. Good luck!
Sebastian, Junger. VanityFair.com. How PTSD Become a Problem Far beyond the battle
Richard, Easterlin. Newsroom.iza.org. The Newest Revolution, Happiness. 2019. Accessed 20 Dec. 2019.
Matthew, Jackson. “The Reasons for Wars.” War Overview,” by Matthew, Jackson. Stanford update, December 2009.
Belen, Mesurado. Elisabeth Vidal. Anna, Mestre. “Negative emotions and behavior.” Journal of adolescence, Vol. 64, 2018, pp. 62-71.
Anna, Czarna. Marcin, Zajenkowski. Michael, Dufner. “Narcissism and Emotions.” Handbook of Trait Narsissism. Vol. 1, 2018, pp. 255-263.
- What was your favorite subject in school?
- what did you always make you happy?
- So, far how much do you like your previous friends. (What is happened in your friendliness)
- which exam is the important in your life?
- Describe what it feels like to ace this test.
- Did you ever accuse
- Tell me the story of the day you were accused of cheating on a test.
- Tell me about yourself
- tell me about your job
- tell me about your job offers
- tell me about your new friends
- tell me about your life back home.
- why and when did you move to the US
- what is your first memory in the US?
- What change did you have to adopt with while in America?
- Can you compare and contrast your country with America? and which one do you like better?
- what do you regret about coming to America?
- How was being a dentist back in your country and getting a DDS degree in the US.
- Did you ever have any distinct based on you gender, race, nationality and so, on?
- who is your best teacher or professor? who is worse? explain it
- did you ever have been regretted about US immigration? which other country would you choose?
- tell me about the happiest minutes that you had in the US. what about the sad time?
- Have you ever been a top rank in any exam or competition? what was your sense about it?
- tell me about difficulties that you have encountered with here. what about the easiest one?
- how similar is the US with your country? how different?
Tell me about your childhood. explain the worse and the best happening that you remembered from those days.
I was born in an educated open mind family. My dad was an engineer and university teacher, and my mom is a lawyer. I have 1 sister and 1 brother; she is a English interpreter and artist and my youngest brother is an engineer. I am the oldest one. The worst memory of my childhood was my Konkour year when I was so, stressed, and we went for a trip with my family 3 months before the exam to feel better, but it actually made it worse. I was crying every day of stress and I had nightmares of losing my mom in a war. The best memory goes to the time that I was a little kid who always play in the alley with other kids in the neighborhood. So, me of the best days where the time that I was spending time in my grandparent’s place who used to live in a beautiful small village 2 hours’ drive to the city downtown. My mom, sisters, aunts and cousins used to go to my grandparents’ place in a beautiful village most of the summer. We were all like 15 kids almost the same average age. Everyday playing around with my cousins, making bread with my grandma and aunts, going to the garden and playing with animals. Having the best foods ever specially breakfasts, eggs, cream and honey, all organic and homemade. I still can remember the smell of those days. My mom and I,in general my mom’s side family were so, patient with kids. We used to make a lot of mess and be so, loud, but I barely remember someone even talking load to us. I used to go to explore different parts of the village as a kid usually with 2 of my cousins. I loved my youngest aunt so, much to the level that I used to cry hard like 24hours when they want to take me back home to go back to school after the summer break.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Isfahan, second largest city in the center of Iran. Such a beautiful historical mysterious city.
How was your childhood? I can say I had one of the best childhood times. I was so, lucky to have the best family. My dad always supported us against the man dominated side of his family by being so, proud of having 3 daughters and he always spend time to teach us different things no matter if the culture says its more man/boys’ job or girls. I used to fix the car with him, and I remember once when we were trying to see if the car is working after spending the whole day fixing the car. It worked in like 2 miles and then the car stopped, and I had to walk back home wearing a dirty ugly loose outfit. My mom always supported me, and she is the most patient human being ever. The kindest and smartest. I spend mainly my childhoods playing with my cousins and aunts from my mother side.
What did you think about yourself?
I was a happy hyper girl who always had a lot of energy. I knew I was brave and never scared of anything. Not walking home alone and I remember once I missed my school bus and i just walked back home from school. I even encouraged my classmates to walk back home and walked with them to make sure they get to their home first and by the time I got home it was dark and my mom was so, stressed, looking everywhere for me. It was more than 2 hours walk if I remember right. I never scared of darkness. My oldest boy cousin was scared of darkness and I used to go bring stuff like clothes from the backyard at night. I was smart and used to learn fast. I remember I was the first one who learned how to ride a bike. Our neighbor asked me if I can teach her daughter how to ride a bike and I did. He bought me a book with its cassette as a present when her daughter learned to ride her bike. My parents knew that we are energetic and smart, and they always planned our free times with different classes like English, swimming, music classes which I am really thankful for those.
What was your favorite subject in school?
I was pretty good in math and physics but because I wanted to be a doctor, I spend a lot of time on biology
What did always make you happy?
Success and being the best are my permanent happiness that makes me proud
How how much do you like your previous friends? (What happened in your friendliness)
Umm, my high school friend who became my classmate in dental school was my main friend, but we ran into several fights and it never got back to normal and we are still not talking. Well after my immigration it needs time and effort go keeps friends from back home. I usually don’t call people or keep in touch unless the do that. So, I am close to my friends in residency in US. So, we have a group chat that we ask questions and just saying ho every day. But if someone doesn’t make the effort for this, I barely keep it.
Which exam is the important in your life?
Konkour the university entrance exam and my specialty board in Iran
Describe what it feels like to ace this test.
I screwed in the Konkour part because I couldn’t manage my stress and I think I
needed medication or a doctor help but I never got one. On the opposite side my endo board exam was a proof for me that I can pass anything if I can manage my stress.
Did you ever accused? explain it.
Tell me the story of the day you were accused of cheating on a test.
I was cheating on my phone, to use the google for the answer (stupid idea) so, I got caught from my back. I lied that i was texting my husband, but she didn’t believe it.
Tell me about your job
I am a Prosthodontist and biomaterial PHD and a full-time faculty at Tehran University. I was practicing as 10 years before moving here.
I used to love my job as a Prosthodontist but now that my main job is teaching and only 2 half days practice. I realized how difficult and stressful is my Prosthodontist job. The job itself has too much physical and mental pressure. I am a good practitioner but dental work in general is so, tiring and dealing with patients is super hard. If I was younger, I would do ortho to at least reduce the physical pressure of the work. Orthodontist is not even dental work or if We had a good income as a family, I would just stick to my faculty job.
Tell me about your job offers
I had job offers from 2 good dental school, stony brook and MICHIGAN. I chose MICHIGAN because of the weather of west coast.
Tell me about your new friends
I am still in touch with my co-resident from Maine but at my new job I haven’t matched to anyone yet probably because they are old men with kids
Tell me about your life back home.
I had a good life. Good income and a big house with a beautiful modern office. Best part of the town and close to my parent’s place. I had servant to clean my house twice a month. Always good food and traveling to best hotels. To different countries since I was 22.
Why and when did you move to the US
I moved in 2014 and just because of the advertisement and exploring the world. It wasn’t because I had bad life back home.
Always u hear bad stuff at news about Iran currency and political things that make you think maybe you should go to the better place, but the reality is United States is the biggest lie I have ever have in my life
What is your first memory in the US?
I was shocked first that I visited NYC. It was so, dirty and not even close to what i was expecting from US. Full of piles of garbage. Times Square was so, small and with only tv screens around. First impression of Miami smells like fish everywhere.
What change did you have to adopt with while in America?
Can you compare and contrast your country and America, and which do you like better?
what do you regret about coming to America?
How was being a dentist back in your country and getting a DDS degree in the US.
Did you ever have any distinct based on you gender, race, nationality and so, on?
who is your best teacher or professor? who is worse? explain it
did you ever have been regret about US immigration? which other country would you chose?
tell me about the happiest minutes that you had in the US. what about the sad time?
Have you ever been a top rank in any exam or competition? what was your sense about it?
tell me about difficulties that you have encountered with here. what about the the easiest one?
how similar is the US with your country? how different?
What change did you have to adopt with while in America?
The biggest adopt was living in small places. I used to live in big 3 bedrooms with 3 bathrooms. Very fancy and modern Apartment but here I moved to a small 1 bedroom not fancy at all. Even the building is brand new, but the design is very basic. I have lived in 3 different placed since 2016 and all were almost the same. Walls are thin so; you can hear all noises from outside and Neighbors. We built the home from concrete in Iran not woods so, walls are thick, and u won’t even hear the noised from one room to the other.
Can you compare and contrast your country and America and which do you like better?
As an immigrant you always compare things. It’s very hard to say which one is better. We should talk more specific about different aspects. For example, I can truly compare the education in Iran and US. I went to dental school for 6 years followed by 3 years specialty and I was teaching at dental school for 10 years. All in Iran. Then I came here and went to the same specialty program in Maine, New England. Then I moved to Lansing to teach at MICHIGAN. I have a good position as a course director, and I rewrote the predoc students curriculum. So, I have spent enough time in both countries education system to be able to compare them. I would strongly say education system in Iran is way better than here for 2 reasons:
- The education is free in Iran and if you have good scores, you will be able to attend the governmental universities which are better than private schools and they are free. I haven’t paid even a dollar for my 6 years dental school. Students here are in a big dept after dental school and they have to buy their own instruments in all departments although they are even paying turions. Second reason is the education system itself. Dental school is 4 years with only 2 years in the clinic and they don’t see enough patients.
What do you regret about coming to America?
Missing my family. Specially my mom.
How was being a dentist back in your country and getting a DDS degree in the US.
I was much harder to get into dental school with way higher requirements
Did you ever have any distinct based on you gender, race, nationality and so, on?
As an Iranian successful woman, I never felt any discrimination in my country against woman. I never felt there is any difference between women and men till I came to Maine and I had an Egyptian program director who obviously believed that women can’t be a chief resident.
Who is your best teacher or professor? who is worse? explain it
My best teacher was my Radiology one of my faculty back home. Worst was my program director from Maine university.
Did you ever have been regretted about US immigration? which other country would you chose?
No I don’t regret it at all because I always wanted to explore the world and I don’t want to stay steady. I would love to explore Europe too maybe france and spend so,me years there.
Tell me about the happiest minutes that you had in the US. what about the sad time?
Happiness was when I left Maine and prosthodontics program that wanted to screw me, and the saddest was when I failed my class 2 filling (such an easy case) in my licensure exam.
Have you ever been a top rank in any exam or competition?
Yes my specialty board in Iran I was top rank
What was your sense about it? I had happiness tear when I hear that.
Tell me about difficulties that you have encountered with here. what about the the easiest one? 3
Easiest one was doing an implantation in my residency program and hardest one was writing my NIW profile and submit it for my green card application