Iranian-American on Trump’s travel ban — I’ve never felt so ‘like an outsider’
TRENTON — With the stroke of a pen, President Donald Trump's executive order temporarily halting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries affected people around the world — including many from New Jersey.
Asie Mirsky, 38, came to the United States from Iran in 1984 with her parents and sister. They eventually moved to Old Bridge, New Jersey, and Mirsky became a naturalized citizen when she was 14. Her extended family still lives in Iran; Mirsky has since moved to Brooklyn with her husband and 1-year-old daughter.
Mirsky comes from a Muslim family, though she's not religious. Her mother has become a practicing Christian. Her American-born husband is Jewish.
"I can't explain what it feels like to have an American kid, an American husband, a Jewish last name thanks to marriage and to feel like an outsider," Mirsky said. "I didn't feel like this much of an outsider when I had frizzy hair in New Jersey growing up."
Airports around the country grappled with confusion and misunderstanding after Trump's executive order — which also temporarily halts all refugee admissions to the U.S., and indefinitely halts admission of Syrian refugees — was signed Friday. It wasn't immediately clear over the weekend whether Green Card holders were to be granted admission or how those with dual citizenship would be evaluated, and several officials reported inconsistent and conflicting applications of the rules.
Late Sunday, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly issued a statement saying that, absent information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare, citizens of the seven countries who hold permanent U.S. residency Green Cards would not be barred — though officials have said they will face extra screening. Officials also clarified Sunday that dual citizens of targeted countries and other countries would likely be allowed through.
As officials sought to clarify the policy throughout the weekend and Monday, a series of legal challenges also left its fate unclear.
Mirsky had been hopeful that improving relations with Iran under the Obama administration would make it easier for her family to come to the United States for a visit.
She said that under the new rules, "(I) feel like 'What's to keep them from keeping me from coming back if I went to visit my dying grandmother?'" — noting her American passport still says she was born in Iran.
Mirsky sees fear of foreigners in her own family.
Her parents "watch a lot of Fox News in the gym" at the 55-and-older community where they live, Mirsky said. "In a matter of months she went from being a Bernie (Sanders) supporter to being like, 'Yeah they gotta keep those people out of the country.'"
She said she defriended her mother on Facebook after other friends sent her screenshots of posts.
"It's like Fox News literally has my mom under the impression she's like an old white lady whose job was stole by a Mexican," Mirsky said.
She said she has "a lot more American in my being than Iranian, but I look Iranian" — and has felt a difference in the way she's treated by those around her. She recalled being told on Election Day by a Sicilian neighbor to "go back where you came from" — even though she and the woman have similar appearances.
"When did it turn into 'I have to go back from where I come from?'" she asked.
Jim Goodness, spokesman for the Newark Archdiocese, which announced plans in December to resettle refugees from Syria and other nations in North Jersey, said the archdiocese is talking with Catholic Charities about the next step.with the program.
"None of the families or individuals have arrived yet. The first ones are expected in March," Goodness said, adding that preparations continue for their arrival. "We are still working for it but we have not been told yes or no at this point."
He described things as "nebulous" at the moment.
Reporting by the Associated Press was used in this post.
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