OPINION: Immigration is the core of American identity


by Nicole Sazegar, Senior Staff Writer

On the day after President Donald J. Trump implemented his immigrant ban, my roommate got into a Facebook argument with an older white woman from Minnesota over the executive order. After multiple paragraphs sent back and forth between this woman, who supports the ban, my roommate decided to use me as an example in her argument. She told the woman that I was a student who was born in Iran and has lived in the U.S. for 18 years and, due to the ban, is no longer able to study abroad in fear of being deported.

“Life isn’t fair,” the woman replied, saying that the ban was meant for “the greater good,” and, by the way, if I’d been living in the U.S. for so long, why haven’t I become a citizen?

Her comments left me shocked, angry and sad.

My family fled Iran because there was nothing left for us there. The Islamic regime went against our Jewish faith and the U.S. promised the right to practice our faith openly. My brother was 17 years old at the time, and once he turned 18 he was going to be drafted into the Iranian military. My family also fled Iran to save his life.

Like any family, we made this country our home and never looked back.

In this country, being foreign doesn’t open a lot of doors. People would shut us out when they found out where we were from, so the community we built helped us find the American Dream. We found it despite starting from the floor, while much of white America was born onto the ladder.

My father opened up his own fabric store in downtown Los Angeles. When his undocumented status led to us losing the fabric store, we never stopped trying to make a better life for ourselves. At the age of 56, my mother learned to speak Spanish fluently and took every last cent my family had and bought a children’s clothing store in downtown Los Angeles.

My family took a major risk by migrating to America, but the oppression and isolation in our home country was much worse than the fear of failing in our new one.

After two years at community college and working part time at frozen yogurt shops and burger joints, I saved up enough money to follow my own dreams. The opportunity to attend a four-year university and study abroad wouldn’t have been possible without my family’s sacrifice.

Unfortunately, my family’s sacrifice doesn’t mean much if these prospects are ripped away from because my nationality is seen as a threat to the country we’ve contributed to for the past 18 years.

My best friend had plans to visit her father in Iran this summer. She now has to go that much longer without seeing him.

My family was fortunate enough to come to the states while refugees were still being accepted with open arms. If Trump’s executive order existed when I was a child, my brother might not be alive today.

I don’t want to think about the amount of refugee children who will lose their lives because of Trump.

When the citizens of this country turned their backs on us, we kept our doors open for them. As an Iranian-American, I have learned that neither culture is better than the other. I am Iranian and I am American, but most of all I am human. I have entered this land legally, but an unconstitutional order has stripped me of my rights.

Persian culture has taught me that if someone allows you into his or her home, you clean up after yourself.

When we were welcomed to this country, we learned to clean up after ourselves and be grateful for the opportunity.

This is not about fairness.

Driving to an ice cream store and seeing that it is closed after Yelp said it would be open is unfair. Someone taking the last slice of pizza instead of offering to split it is unfair. Doing someone’s dishes and them not returning the favor later on is unfair. But having educational opportunities taken away from you because of racism? It’s more than unfair —it is unjust.