January 03, 2017
Nazanin Zinouri, an Iranian-born data scientist and South Carolina resident, was blocked from boarding her flight from Dubai to Washington, DC, after President Trump signed his executive order Friday.
Zinouri first arrived in the United States in 2010, to began a master’s program in engineering at Northern Illinois University, where she received a full scholarship. Since 2013, she has lived in South Carolina, where, after earning her doctorate in industrial engineering at Clemson University, she was hired at a technology firm that soon began the process of sponsoring her for a green card.
“In the winter, I decided to take a three-week trip to visit my mom and sister,” Zinouri wrote in The Washington Post Monday. “My visa was in order, but I hauled along a ton of paperwork to avoid trouble“— I had my job offer letter, my employment authorization form, multiple pay stubs, even copies of my old student visas, just in case.”
Shortly after arriving in Tehran last weekend, however, she”started to hear rumors about Trump’s executive order. Three days into what was supposed to be a three-week trip, it became clear to Zinouri that she had to get back to the US. But by the time she boarded the earliest flight she could get out of Tehran, the order had been signed. And before she reached the second leg of her trip, from Dubai to Dulles, she was stopped from boarding for “security reasons.”
Zinouri described feeling “numb” as “a million thoughts rushed through my mind, from the practical to the philosophical,” like what would happen to the puppy she’d recently adopted, or her car she’d left parked at the Atlanta airport?
“What happens to all the stuff I had collected during 6 1/2 years living in the United States? What about my lease? Will my landlord think I just left town? What happens to my job, my life, my American Dream?” she wrote.
“I flew back to Tehran to stay with my family and figure out what to do next, stung by the realization that as far as the US government is concerned, my life doesn’t matter. Nothing I worked for all these years matters.””