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The Iranian Students Left in the Lurch

Sarah Parvini follows up on the cases of Iranian students who have had their student visas suddenly and inexplicably revoked:

The students have put together a spreadsheet to keep track of their cases and determine whether they all had something in common that would bar them from the U.S., she said.

The only thing they found, she said, was that they are all Iranian.

There still doesn’t appear to be any explanation from the government why these students were treated this way. The State Department won’t comment on the cases to the press, and the affected students can’t get any answers, either. There seems to be no legitimate reason for the decision to yank the rug out from under these people who were about to begin their graduate work in American universities. If they weren’t eligible to travel here for some reason, why grant them the visas in the first place? It strains credulity that there would be something that came up with almost two dozen different students all at the same time, so we have to conclude that they are being discriminated against solely because of their nationality. It has been a demoralizing and frustrating time for them:

Students grappling with the visa cancellations said they felt defeated. Some have applied for student visas a second time, while others wonder whether they should attend universities in other countries such as Canada.

One of the students Parvini contacted doesn’t expect things to change for the better:

The 29-year-old had waited eight months to secure his visa and spent two years working and taking tests to get into American schools. He had been accepted into a program for mechanical engineering at the University of Toledo. But after an 18-hour flight to Boston, he was escorted onto a flight back to Tehran. His application for a second visa was rejected.

“I know my situation won’t change, and I don’t have any hope that I could get my visa and return as a PhD student,” he said. “They don’t care that they’re smashing two years of someone’s life under their feet and shattering them.” [bold mine-DL]

Like the travel ban, the treatment of these students seems arbitrary and pointlessly cruel. Much like the bogus waiver program, the process that led to the revocation of the students’ visas is opaque. The experience of these students shows that the exemption in the travel ban for student visas isn’t much of an exemption at all. Now these students have been left in the lurch, and their academic careers have been put on hold for no good reason. Ideally, the government would remedy the situation by approving new visas for all of these students as quickly as possible.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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