Sara Yarjani was on a return flight into Los Angeles when President Donald Trump issued an executive order banning travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
As an Iranian national, she became one of thousands caught up in the chaos at airports around the country. Customs officials held her for more than 24-hours before forcing her to leave the country.
Eventually, Yarjani, a graduate student in San Diego, was able to return to classes after courts blocked the policy.
She attended Trump’s speech to congress this week as a guest of Rep. Judy Chu. She spoke to Morning Edition’s Alex Cohen about Trump’s speech and her detention at the airport. Here are a couple excerpts from her interview.
What was that like for you to be in that room – to hear that speech there in person?
It was bit strange. There were a lot of positive words being used in the speech. Words like “hope,” “healing,” and “unity over division.” It was a little bit strange because my experience of what had happen because of the policies was really contradictory to those words.
It was also unsettling – because I was in the galleries with the other guests—it was unsettling to hear the crowd around me in the gallery cheering when words were being said connecting immigrants to danger and crime. There was so much being said that was connecting Muslims to crime. Or portraying any Muslims and immigrants as a threat or cause of problems – financial, work, safety problems for people here. Where I know I was affected and I’m here studying something that’s aimed at contributing to people. So that was quite difficult to see people strongly cheering for things like that.
If you could sit down with the president and share your views – your experiences – what would you want to say?
I would feel more strongly about somehow saying a few words to the American people. Because, for me I feel like, this is a country where people have a lot of say in what happens. There was a lot of talk about immigrants are straining the public resources of the poorest citizens here. When in reality – if people checked facts – so many immigrants have created jobs here. Even as a student, I’m paying international tuition fees and bringing in money. I’m not working on that visa and taking people’s jobs. I’m bringing in money. But that’s nothing compared to the money that so many immigrant business people are bringing to this country. So I just feel that if people could just see the truth of what’s happening to real people, real families and check the facts of who is being affected.
There was talk about the terror attacks here and that being connected to immigrants. The seven countries that are banned were not in any way involved in any attacks that happened in this country. Already people here have shown […] that they are more aware of the truth, but I would hope that people would be more aware of the facts and reality.