Seventeen years ago, on Feb. 15, 2000, I wrote a letter that I thought would forever separate me from the Islamic Republic of Iran.
I sent a letter to Iran’s embassy in Ottawa renouncing my Iranian citizenship. A day earlier, on Feb. 14, I had taken my Canadian oath of citizenship. Having sworn allegiance to the Queen, I thought it appropriate to tell Tehran’s mullahs that I no longer had any need for, or allegiance to, them. Since then, I’ve spent much of my life fighting the mullahs and their agenda of hate. I’ve never returned to Iran since my family left when I was a child.
This past week, president Donald Trump decided that despite my hatred for the Islamic Republic’s mullahs, I am too big a threat to be allowed entry into the United States.
As a Canadian, this would normally not be that big a deal. Except I am the founder and CEO of a tech company with offices in Toronto and San Francisco. This means I cross the Canada/U.S. border at least once a month—sometimes two or three times a month. And not being allowed entry into the United States would make it much more difficult for me to build a business that has American investors, American employees, and American customers.
I am a conservative. I am a conservative on immigration issues. I believe in strong immigration laws and protected borders. I believe there are people in the world with hateful ideologies who mean to harm those of us in the West. I know some of them. I grew up living next to them.
Those people on TV chanting death to America, death to the West; they aren’t kidding. They mean it. But for the life of me, I can’t understand how not allowing me to enter the United States helps fight those people. How does deporting Iranian-born nuclear scientists that are studying at Harvard or MIT back to Tehran help make America safer?
In 2008, there were 97 Iranian-born, non-U.S. citizens serving in the U.S. military. Under Donald Trump’s executive order, all of them would be barred entry back into the United States. How does deporting loyal U.S. soldiers back to Iran help make America safer?
For the past two days, I’ve been asking myself these questions over and over again. I can’t find any good answers.
The government of Canada seems to believe this executive order does not apply to Canadian citizens. Immigration lawyers who I’ve spoken to think differently. And there is wild chaos at the U.S. border. Everyone is just confused.
In the meantime, I am stuck in the United States. I can’t leave the U.S., because leaving would mean risking my company’s future. Leaving would not be like saying au revoir. It would be saying goodbye forever. For now, I can’t see my parents who live in Richmond Hill. I can’t work out of my office in Toronto; and I can’t be with my wife who spends most of her time in Toronto.
It all feels very odd, but so does the presidency of Donald Trump.
Kasra Nejatian was a senior advisor to Jason Kenney, the former minister of immigration.