First things first, this post reflects my personal viewpoints and not that of my employer. With that boilerplate out of the way, I want to talk about what’s happening in the US and how it’s going to affect me.
Let me start by giving you a bit of background about myself that may help explain some of my viewpoints. I was born in Iran. As a result, I was banned from entering the US for 90 days starting this past Friday. Let’s first look at some of the facts around what actually happened, since there has been some confusion around the executive order and the implementation so far has been chaotic. People born in 7 countries have been banned from entering the US for 90 days. Those countries are Iran (77 million people), Iraq (33 million people), Libya (6 million people), Somalia (10 million people), Syria (22 million people), Sudan (38 million people), and Yemen (24 million). That's 210 million people worldwide. Refugees born in all countries have been banned from entering the US for 120 days, and those born in Syria (a country with 4.8 million refugees and 6.6 million internally displaced people) have been banned permanently. The US government is going to require these countries (and others that they may add to the list by that time) provide information about the individuals seeking to enter the US after the period of 90 days, and due to the lack of US-Iran diplomatic relations, it is suspected that the ban on Iranian nationals will be indefinite.
The executive order actually doesn't name these 7 countries, but refers to Obama era legislation that does.
Here's what we know:
- So far the implementation of the ban has resulted in disrupting the lives of people all over the world.
- Initially the executive order was implemented targeting all nationals of those countries including US permanent residents and dual citizens of other countries, such as naturalized Canadians, that is those who moved to Canada as either immigrants or refugees and acquired Canadian citizenship.
- The resulting chaos had people landing in airports with the rules different from when they took off, only to find themselves detained without knowingly having done anything wrong.
- The American Civil Liberties Union sued the federal government in court and were granted a stay of the executive order so that people who unknowingly landed illegally could be allowed to enter.
- In response to the ongoing public and political backlash as of this writing, the US government is now easing the restrictions and as such reversing their position on permanent residents and on some dual citizens.
- Iran announced that they will reciprocate (but not retroactively). I find this really problematic obviously.
- The democrats are considering introducing legislation to overturn this order.
The story is still unfolding…
How this feels like
First let’s talk about what this is not. This is not a Muslim ban, as there are non-Muslims who are born in those countries (although the American head of state has publicly said that he wants to make exemptions for Christians or perhaps religious minorities, and it’s unclear what the exact definition is). This is not targeting people who live in those countries, or travel to those countries, as it includes those who live abroad, such as myself. This is a human ban. This is racial and ethnic discrimination based purely on where I was born, not based on anything that I have done. In the past, I have received 16 US visas, and have traveled there as recently as December 2016, almost entirely for Mozilla-related business trips. Traveling to the US has by no means been easy for me. Until it was suspended in April 2011, I traveled many times to the US under the NSEERS program: I was flagged for random security screening on every single crossing of the US border; was secondary screened on every entry to the US (which basically means answering many personal questions, questions about my financials including my debit and credit card numbers, addresses and phone numbers of my relatives, all the while being rudely spoken to, and waiting so long that I once missed my flight as they made me wait an extra amount of time and another time getting locked in a room while awaiting my departure from the Chicago Midway Airport because they didn’t have enough staff for someone to “watch” over me; and having my passport confiscated by US Customs and Border Protection upon arrival to any US airport I'm transiting through until I get on my departing flight, each and every single time. Things got a lot better for me after that program ended, but clearly those ‘nicer’ days are over now. To be honest, I haven’t really processed this fully yet. Having read about the stories of discrimination and exclusion, I've not realized until now what it really feels like to be on the receiving side of this much hatred. The labels are very clear. From the title of the executive order, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States” to it's every action, I understand that I'm considered “foreign terrorist” to the US administration regardless as my actions as a human being, and that it is my country of origin that is the only measure from which I am to be deemed worthy of entering the US. I’m not really sure whether I will be “allowed to” travel to the US again, and after reading stories about what happened to people who were in transit to the US as this order was signed, I’m not really sure when I will feel safe to travel there again, with or without such orders in place. Needless to say, I am extremely worried about what the future weeks, months and years hold. Worried what changes this US administration is going to bring about and what it will mean for my family and friends, my career, and the future of the world as we know it.
What can you do?
If you live in the US, and care about this issue and the rest of what the new administration is doing, please consider contacting your representatives of government, and assist or donate to the causes that are working towards alleviating the harmful effects of the new policies being unrolled. If not, you can still contact your representatives and ask them to take a stand. I have contacted my MP in the Canadian Parliament and am planning to contact the Minister of Immigration.
Consider donating to organizations that fight this cause or others at danger by the current US government. I have set up a monthly donation to the ACLU today. Join a social movement in your area. Speak to your friends and family about this. Don't let this become the new norm for how people are excluded and marginalized in lieu of their governments.
What can Mozilla do?
I’m not really sure. Mozilla is not a political organization and generally doesn’t take stands on issues outside of the Mozilla Manifesto, a position I agree with. Right now this issue doesn’t fall within the manifesto, but it does affect people in our community. In all honestly reading this post left me with mixed feelings, as to me as someone who doesn’t live in the US (like most of our users and a large portion of our community) this ban posing a risk to the growth and prosperity of the US is all but one small portion of a much larger issue. In very concrete terms, this by all likelihood can cause issues for people like me in terms of being able to participate in the future Mozilla events hosted. We have three all hands scheduled for 2017 and 2018 in the US which I may very likely miss, and usually I have to travel a few times a year to the US for various Mozilla-related meetings and events in addition. While scheduling things outside of the US from now on would certainly help me, there may be others living in the US now or in the future who may have difficulty going back home in that case. And of course there is the question of the uncertainty of future changes to US immigration law to consider, be they in a few months or a few years under this administration.