Nazanin Zinouri: The plight of one among thousands

Nazanin and her pooch, Dexter, in a photo from her Facebook page.

Nazanin and her pooch, Dexter, in a photo from her Facebook page.

You may have read of the situation that Clemson grad Nazanin Zinouri finds herself in: She went home for a brief visit to Iran leaving a sick dog and a car at the Atlanta airport. Now, thanks to Donald J. Trump, she can’t get back.

Here’s what she posted on Facebook over the weekend from the Dubai airport where he is stuck (and thanks to Mark Stewart for pointing this out):

I normally don’t write long posts or any kind of political or religious comments.
I apologize in advance and I don’t expect my friends to read this long long past!!
But today I just couldn’t hold it any longer. Friday 1/20/17 started like any other normal day. I was excited about my trip to Tehran. After all I only get to visit them once a year. I was excited and anxious at the same time. I was worried about my little puppy but I couldn’t wait to see my mom…
It was an uneventful trip. I made him home on Monday 1/22/17, after around 28 hours, exhausted but so so happy. We were all happy. I was going to eat lots of delicious Persian food and make tons of great memories and go back to my life in the US. But the happiness didn’t last that long. On Wednesday, we started hearing rumors about new executive orders that will change immigration rules for some countries including Iran. Soon we started reading drafts like everyone else. I might be banned from going back?!?! No that can’t be true. I’m not gonna let that ruin my trip. But then it got serious so fast. Before I knew it, it was actually happening. Even though I didn’t want to leave my family, I quickly booked a ticket to get on the next flight back. Only a few hours after the order was signed, I got to the airport, got on a plane and made it to Dubai. After waiting in the line to get my documents checked and after 40 minutes of waiting, I was ready to board the plane to Washington, only to have officers ask me to live the boarding area. “For security reasons your boarding is denied.”!!! Yes after almost 7 years of living the the United States, I got deported!!!
No one warned me when I was leaving, no one cared what will happen to my dog or my job or my life there. No one told me what I should do with my car that is still parked at the airport parking. Or what to do with my house and all my belongings.
They didn’t say it with words but with their actions, that my life doesn’t matter. Everything I worked for all these years doesn’t matter.
I just had to say it…

Oh, by the way, the dog is fine for now, according to the friend keeping it.

But y’all know me — I care a lot more about people than critters…

72 thoughts on “Nazanin Zinouri: The plight of one among thousands

  1. clark surratt

    Brad, this is a totally warm, fuzzy sympathetic story. But is there more? I am not familiar with international travel, but I read somewhere she had a student visa, and has finished her school work. She is working now, but does not have a green card, but one official said she is applying. Is there a technical problem? If so, could she be held up because of laws and rules? If not, what good are laws and rules?

    1. Bill Hauk

      While I don’t know the details of her exact situation, most student visas have what is called an OPT year — which I believe stands for Optional Practical Training. Basically you can work for up to a year after you finish your studies in a field related to them and try to apply for an employer-sponsored visa or a green card. Again, I don’t know if that’s what is going on here, but that seems like a possibility.

    2. Mark Stewart

      If you are “not familiar with international travel” and you “read somewhere” conjecture that she had a student visa then you are simply sowing ignorance.

      Try focusing on the facts here: Someone who had a legal life here in the US (in South Carolina no less) was summarily denied return to that life for no coherent reason. At the drop of a hat. If you don’t find that deeply disturbing, then your understanding of rules and laws is tragically flawed. In that, you do appear to have some company, sadly.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Mark, I don’t think Clark is being contrarian or “sowing ignorance.” Clark’s a longtime newspaperman, and he’s following the dictum, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

        And as I’ve said just recently, I don’t believe we should make policy just on the basis of a sympathetic individual case.

        Of course, in this we know that a LOT of people other than Nazanin Zinouri have had their lives rudely messed with because of this insanity…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Speaking of which, I neglected last week to celebrate this bit of good news in the SC Senate:

          The practice of naming proposed laws after tragedy victims is grinding to a halt in the S.C. State House’s upper chamber.

          State senators have banned themselves from attaching the names of people or animals to bills in an effort, they say, to keep emotions out of policy making. They also could consider striking names from bills sent over by the S.C. House, since the House does not have a similar rule in place.

          “Lots of times when legislation is named after a person or an animal, it adds an emotional aspect of the bill that really is a distraction from the merits of the bill,” said Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, R-Edgefield. “It makes the debate and the vote less about the merit of the legislation than it does about the name that’s attached.”…

          Hear, hear!

        2. Mark Stewart

          The meme I was refering to is that she overstayed her student visa and so, duh, of course she can’t get back into the country legally – and has no right to be here anyway. It seems to be spouted in near total ignorance by some Americans.

          The US passed laws and created a visa/immigration system; by all real accounts she has followed that procedure. Whether she has, or has not, yet started the employer-sponsored green card/citizenship process I don’t know. But that’s irrelevant. With the stroke of his pen, Trump signed an executive order (which seems to have flowed from the rancid mind of Rudy Giuliani the middle eastern regime lobbyist) which up-ended the lives of thousands or tens of thousands of people who had in fact followed our immigration rules. This isn’t about “109” people being detained for a few hours; that’s just gaslighting.

          This was nothing but sweeping bigotry based upon generalized prejudice; which is exactly what our country was not built upon.

          1. Mark Stewart

            So it seems the evolution of this executive order was last in the hands of Jeff Sessions.

            His confirmation hearings start tomorrow; this was not an adroit way of demonstrating one’s jurisprudence or of one’s sense of what it is to be an American..

            1. Bryan Caskey

              It certainly doesn’t speak well of his strategic thinking. On a related note, I so wish Congress would get involved and weigh in on this immigration issue in the form of actual legislation. However, over the last several presidencies, Congress has been content to let POTUS do things via EO.

              I want less EOs and more congressional work. I want less regulations promulgated by agencies, and actual laws by congress. Chevron deference grates on me.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                Laws? From Congress?


                Here’s how our Congress sees its job: putting forth noncentrist proposals that appeal only to the hardcore bases of members’ respective parties, then, when the legislation fails, running against the opposition for having killed the proposals.

                They do this to stave off challenges in their primaries from extremists. Passing actual LAWS would involve working with the opposition on consensus legislation, which would mean death to the member in his primary.

                At least, that’s the way it works with Republicans. Since I don’t live in New York or Massachusetts or San Francisco, it’s been awhile since I’ve had a chance to see up close how it works with Democrats…

    3. Brad Warthen Post author

      I don’t know, Clark. All I know is what was in that AP story…

      But looking around, I see that she’s written a piece for The Washington Post, in which she says:

      In August, I graduated and found a job as a data scientist at a technology firm in Greenville, under a provision in the law that allows students to work on their student visas for a time after graduating.

      I love my job and the team I work with. My firm started the process to sponsor me for a green card, which would give me permanent legal residence and put me on the path to becoming a U.S. citizen….

      Whatever her situation, I think if we want to change the rules on immigration, we ought to be changing them to make it easier for someone like her to stay here, based on what we’ve learned about her so far…

  2. Norm Ivey

    This is from the WLOS website:

    I had my OPT on F1 and employment authorization form, legally enabling me to work and live in the United States. My company also started my greencard application process. Late January I took a three-week vacation to visit my family. I had a valid multiple entry F1 visa with valid OPT and employment authorization card. I had my employment letter and pay stubs, even my old visas just in case! I arrived to Tehran on Monday 1/22/2017. Before I could even enjoy being with family, on Wednesday I heard rumors about a new executive order that will ban citizens of seven Muslim countries including Iran from entering the United states for 30 days. It was shocking and I couldn’t believe a country like United states that is all about acting based on law and supporting human rights, will keep someone who has lived there for almost seven years and have valid visa and documents from returning to her home.

  3. Claus

    Canada says they’ll take them, so to save money on deportation can we just ship them to Canada?

    What other country has open borders where anyone from anywhere can just walk in and take up residence? I don’t understand why the US has to be the destination for every person in the world who wants to leave their country. Australia as a bunch of available space.

      1. Claus

        Nice avoiding the question. What other country allows anyone to walk into their country and take up residence?

        Maybe you don’t mind paying to support these people, but as long as they come into this country illegally I’ll continue to have a problem with them.

        Canada volunteered to take anyone who had problems getting into the United States… why not take them up on their offer?

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          OK, let’s see…

          “Nice avoiding the question. What other country allows anyone to walk into their country and take up residence?” I don’t know. Certainly not THIS country. And that’s a bizarre thing to say in this case, which involves a young woman who at every step has gone through the proper paperwork.

          “Maybe you don’t mind paying to support these people, but as long as they come into this country illegally I’ll continue to have a problem with them.” Again, what does this have to do with this case? Oh, and whom are we “paying to support?” You mean all those people who come here to work like slaves at backbreaking jobs in order to make a living they couldn’t make at home? Where on Earth does this notion that we’re all “paying to support” these folks in the underground economy come from? Where do you get it?

          “Canada volunteered to take anyone who had problems getting into the United States… why not take them up on their offer?” That’s no solution except perhaps to someone who hates foreigners and LIKES the idea of them going anywhere but here.

          1. Claus

            So then if we don’t allow it, why do we have a problem with so many people here illegally? Is she in this country legally? Yes or No? Having your paperwork doesn’t mean anything, this is a decision that can’t be answered until the paperwork is approved or denied. Right now she’s not here legally under a education visa, she’s graduated and no longer a student. She does not have a work visa, yet she’s here working.

            Who’s paying for their kids to go to school, likely overcrowding the school system? Who’s paying for their medical expenses? States are giving them EBT cards, who’s paying for that? If you don’t have an issue with schools having to hire interpreters rather than teachers, building temporary classrooms, etc… then I suggest you start paying my share of taxes and fees too.

            Those people working “like slaves at backbreaking jobs”. Are they here on work visas? Or are they denying jobs to those who could or are here with valid work visas?

            I don’t hate foreigners, I do hate foreigners who waltz into this country illegally while citizens from their same home country are going through the proper channels. But I guess you also don’t have issues with people who cut lines in front of you either. Because that’s exactly what those here illegally are doing.

            You can twist words all you want to make it appear that I’m some sort of racist, but you’d still be wrong.

        2. Mark Stewart

          Who said we have an open US border?

          Support “these people”? That’s nice; sure that bigotry isn’t usually aimed at “those people”?

          Who said anything about illegals here – we are talking about people with valid visas and some of whom are already permanent residents? There was a system in place that all of “these people” were following until Trump pulled the rug out from under them on a Friday afternoon.

          If you think all immigration is illegal immigration there really isn’t anything to say to you.

          1. Claus

            So are you saying we have closed borders? How are all the illegals from Mexico getting through our borders?

            I was wondering how long before someone would throw out “those people”. Can you give me a better choice of words to use in the future?

            Being a permanent resident doesn’t make you a legal citizen. Is this woman here on an education visa? When does that expire? Is she here with a work visa? In the works, doesn’t give her citizenship.

            I’ve never said all immigration is illegal immigration, you said that. There are people in this country every month who become legal citizens, because they waited and went through the process of becoming a citizen. Right now this woman (and I’m expecting your next response to include “this woman or that woman” as a racist comment) has no valid education visa and no valid work visa. Is she coming here on vacation? If so she’ll be asked how long she intends to be in the country and when she plans on leaving this country. Foreign visitors are welcome in this country.

    1. Norm Ivey

      Why would you want to deport a woman who is here legally, studying at an American school and working in America? What has she done to warrant deportation?

  4. Bryan Caskey

    This is why we need a practical immigration policy. Doing things that feel good but fail just leads to a populist backlash, like we’re seeing now.

    Additional vetting isn’t controversial, nor is it in conflict with American ideals. There’s a way it can be done.

    However, the way this EO was implemented was just stupid. It should have had a future effective date (not immediate) the DHS folks should have gotten a briefing, it should have excluded green card holders, and people actually in transit, then it would have been fine.

    But Trump’s ham-handed about these things. Well, about most things, really.

    1. Pam Wilkins

      Frankly, there is already a great deal of vetting. More to the point, why should we trust the vetting procedures Steve Bannon will create? If this is a sign of the competence to come, then I’d prefer that we stick with the procedures in place.

      I’m up here at a university in Michigan right near the Canadian border. We have lots of students who are permanent residents of Canada but originally from the countries in question. So far this has been a mess, and the border agents don’t have adequate guidance at all.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      “we need a practical immigration policy?”

      You mean, like what George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Marco Rubio and many others (including the whole U.S. Senate, which passed the Gang of Eight proposal) tried and tried to pass? And which they couldn’t pass because of the very same populist (which in this case is a euphemism for “nativist,” “xenophobe,” “Know-Nothing,” etc.) elements?

      Like that, you mean?

      The last decade has taught us that the more these populist backlashers are involved, the less likely you are to get “a practical immigration policy.” Why? Because they don’t want one.

      1. Bryan Caskey

        This populist backlash is in response to last ten or so years. I’m saying there’s something other than what’s been the status quo for the last ten or so years that might have been a middle ground between that and the current position. I’m not sure the Gang of Eight proposal was going to work.

        1. bud

          Not sure the status quo was really all that bad. Just a bunch of fear mongering made it seem terrible. We’re a nation of
          Immigrants. I consider that a good thing.

  5. bud

    Elections have consequences. I suspect that until/unless we have a major recession Trump voters will just shrug consequences like this off. It’s a shame but money seems to trump all else.

    1. Claus

      Consequences like allowing illegal aliens to stay in the country? She was to return home after her education visa expired (she graduated). She didn’t leave after graduation, she had no Green Card/Work Visa, not only should she be kept out of the country but her employer should be held accountable for hiring an illegal worker.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        That simply does not fit the facts. She was doing everything according to the rules. She was not illegal. She had done what she needed to do to extend her student visa so she could take a job while applying for permanent status. I’ve seen zero evidence to indicate she OR her employer were breaking or flouting the law in any way.

        If such evidence exists, it has not come to light.

        So where do you get the notions you express here? Are they “alternative facts?” If so, that’s very fashionable of you…

        1. Mark Stewart

          Classic case of a guy who constantly bashes the media – and then swallows his information from “Breitbart News Network”.

          It’s embarrassing really.

        2. Claus

          If she’s doing everything by the rules then she’ll be alowed back into this country. Under the rules of the executive order she is a citizen of one of the seven countries on the list, she has made multiple trips back and forth between the US and Iraq. She has an expired education visa, she has no work visa. Red flags go up, her return gets held up. The Executive Order is working as written.

          Is this really that hard to understand?

          1. Mark Stewart

            Except for being a citizen of one of the seven countries on Trump’s list, the rest of your statements are, at best, “alternate facts” – and most likely nothing more than careless misstatements.

        3. Claus

          Brad I want to hear your argument for her staying. You can find every fault in my argument of why she should not be here at the moment. Using just immigration laws as written, why should she be allowed return to this country while she has no legal paperwork allowing her to return and work in this country? You’re good at telling me I’m wrong, but don’t explain why I’m wrong.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            There is no argument for her NOT staying. She has a legal extension on her student visa, which allows people to start work while applying for more permanent papers, such as a green card.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author


      The ugly underbelly of American xenophobia is being exposed to the world, and this will have serious diplomatic and security consequences for this country for a long, long time.

      This is why populism — which plays to the lowest common denominators in society — is a very bad idea. The people in charge need to be smart enough to understand how harmful it is to play to such impulses.

      Yeah, I know people don’t like hearing that. Probably much more than 57 percent don’t like hearing that. But it’s true…

      1. Bryan Caskey

        But you can’t completely ignore those impulses, either. If you do, they build and erupt…like now.

        Trick is to address the concerns in a real, but measured way.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Which is EXACTLY what responsible efforts such as President Bush’s and the Gang of Eight were about.

          But the people who are driving the Wall and the gross xenophobia of the last few days did not WANT a measured approach.

          They always wanted the kind of insanity we’re seeing now, which is why they scuttled every attempt to pass rational reform…

          1. Mark Stewart

            They want what they will not ever have. It’s just delusion. Populism arises out of “real” fears about economic uncertainty and social transformation. That’s legit – and it still remains so even today. What isn’t is all the rest of it that they wrap themselves in because they just can’t admit that the world scares them and they feel non-competitive. So they lash out.

            And then we have to pick up the pieces. The world is undergoing its third economic revolution in 400 years. We now live in the Information Age – the industrial age is alive only in China and a few other places still decades behind. There is no winding the clock back, no rational way to avoid the reality that our world evolves – just as it spins.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              The irony is that in the Information Age, so many of us information professionals got laid off because, presumably, one does not need professionals — in fact, if one is a populist of either the left or right, one deeply resents professionals — curating the information.

              And what is the result? “Fake news,” and people thinking they’re not only entitled to their own opinions, but to their own facts.

              What worries me about that is that I look at all my friends still working in the MSM, having to do more (nor just two cycles a day, but a perpetual cycle where deadline is always NOW) and do it with fewer people, and the few remaining professionals are more and more likely to make mistakes, and miss things. It was getting bad before I left. It’s much worse now…

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                Except in Washington, of course. There, we have too many journalists writing repetitively about the same stuff, while citizens have an information deficit in the rest of the country…

              2. bud

                Don’t make this about “left or right”. That’s just asinine. This is driven exclusively by right wing fear mongering.

          2. Bryan Caskey

            Well, as unhelpful as it is to (re)litigate things that happened back in the past, I believe the sticking point then was that it was granting status to illegals up front in exchange for border security in the future. Accordingly, the more hawkish folks were skeptical that the promises made in the “out years” would not materialize.

            I remember lots of conservative voices (Krauthammer in particular) stating that amnesty for those here now would be acceptable, but only after the flow of illegals was substantially reduced. Frankly, I think that’s a pretty reasonable position.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Well, the flow was substantially reduced over the period to which you refer (past decade).

              Yep, that was mostly because of economic problems that made the U.S. a less-attractive place for people desperate for jobs. But there were other factors. Consider, for instance, the fact that Barack Obama deported more people than any other president.

              I’ll quote somebody on that: “President Obama has moved millions of people out. Nobody knows about it. Nobody talks about it. But under Obama, millions of people have been moved out of this country. They’ve been deported.”

              You may be able to tell by the style that the speaker there is Donald Trump, in one of the debates back in the fall.

              So… total numbers of illegals are down. More people than ever being deported.

              So basically, that leaves us conditions that, while they may not quite match Krauthammer’s standard, at least move us in that direction. So how about that amnesty, huh?

        2. Claus

          If Brad were a volcano we’d have a new Hawaiian island with his non-stop eruptions since November 10th when his whole world came to and end.

      2. Claus

        Populism – support for the concerns of ordinary people.

        Brad, are you saying this is a bad idea? That support should only be a concern for select groups? If so I’m starting to see why you voted for Hillary Clinton, she wasn’t for the ordinary citizen either. If you couldn’t write her a six figure check for her foundation, she wasn’t interested in your concerns.

    2. Mark Stewart

      This survey of “likely voters” (i.e., including those who don’t actually vote but do like to spout ignorance) was conducted in the days BEFORE Trump announced his Friday executive order. The respondents were projecting their fears. This was NOT a survey of what even likely voters think of the incompetence that actually flowed forth from the White House on this issue.

      Bogus data in a bogus political framework.

      1. Claus

        What’s bogus about the article, the fact that you don’t like the word “likely”? Do you think any of those “likely voters” voted in November when a similar poll was taken in August?

        “These findings have changed little from August when 59% of voters agreed with Trump’s call for a temporary ban on immigration into the United States from “the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world that have a history of exporting terrorism” until the federal government improves its ability to screen out potential terrorists. “

        1. Mark Stewart

          Has anyone shown that the government HAS NOT been going an excellent job screening overseas arrivals to date? The evidence would support this argument, regardless of the incoherent fears of some.

            1. Claus

              Is there a point where we can tell refugees, “We’re full”? We can’t take care of our own people yet we keep taking in others who we end up supporting. It’s like a guy digging a hole trying to get out, but keeps digging deeper.

          1. Claus

            Well there have been several attacks by refugees in this and other countries. They seem to have issues with women, the way they dress, the way they act, the way they do things that are against their religion. How many rapes and attacks have happened in Europe in the past year? Go to Minnesota, they took in several dozens or hundreds of these refugees and they’re now starting to regret that decision… and this is liberal Minnesota, not South Carolina.

            1. Claus

              Nobody has explained why refugees need to come to the United States, other than a small handful of European countries does anyone else take in refugees? How many refugees does Brazil, China, Russia, Mexico, Canada, etc… take in each year?

                1. Mark Stewart

                  in his own words Claus has described his outlook better than anyone else ever could.

                  It’s impossible to evolve without self-awesomeness, and just as difficult to reason dispassionately. In such a confluence empathy is, and will remain, out of reach.

                2. Claus

                  Can we get a reason that isn’t based on emotion? It’s difficult to support them on emotion alone. We are broke, we can’t afford to support more people who can’t support themselves. The world is a cruel place, sometimes you face the facts and take it for what it’s worth. I’m sorry you were born in a 3rd world country and ravaged by war, but we can’t help all of you. Check with Spain, France, Australia, Canada, Kuwait, Brazil, etc…

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    We are not broke. We are the richest country in the world. We afford perfectly well to take care of ourselves, and plenty of other people in dire straits as well. We can do it without breaking a sweat. We just choose not to…

              1. Bob Amundson

                A plaque on the Statute of Liberty is engraved with the poem New Colossus:

                Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
                With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
                Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
                A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
                Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
                Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
                Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
                The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
                “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
                With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
                Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
                The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
                Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
                I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

  6. Harry Harris

    I don’t know about all the human interest stuff and green cards. I do know that many, if not most Muslims are angry – and they have many supporters. We may be getting the atmosphere that’s most dangerous to our security and the isolation in the world that our adversaries want. And Putin and the jihadists chuckle under their breath …

  7. Brad Warthen Post author

    Oh, by the way, about my headline on this post, the “one among thousands” part.

    Trump claims his order only affected 109 people.

    The Washington Post‘s Fact Checker says it’s more like 90,000.

    Which earned him yet another Four Pinocchios from the Fact Checker.

    If the Post ever establishes a Fact Checker Hall of Fame, Trump is likely to be the chief exhibit…

    1. Harry Harris

      If fact-checkers were able to take prizes after a successful debunk, Trump’s hide would be on the wall, but I don’t think there’d be enough to go around.

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