Iranians coming to Santa Clara conference sent home
Visas revoked, denied US entry
Mirkarimi calls for alternative to Bush misguided policy
Elahe Ensanni, left, spokesperson for Sharif University of Technology
Alumni Association, spoke at a noon press conference outside the
Department of Homeland Security in San Francisco. Ensanni was
joined by Fouden Jojapri, center, founding president of the association
to protest the revocation of U.S. entry visas to Iranians.
Photo(s) s by Sean Posey
By Brigid Gaffikin, Bay City News Service
August 4, 2006
Members of an Iranian university's international alumni association
are expressing frustration that more than 100 visa holders traveling
to the United States to attend the group's fourth reunion in Santa
Clara have had their visas revoked.
Elahe Enssani, a spokeswoman for the Sharif University of Technology
Institute Alumni Association conference, which began today at
the Santa Clara Hyatt Regency, said all 12 of the conference registrants
who were arriving at San Francisco International Airport were
denied entry and that only 15 of 105 visa applicants who had hoped
to come to the conference have been allowed entry into the U.S.
The first visa holder coming to the conference was turned around
July 25 at Los Angeles International Airport, and since then only
a few registrants have been allowed into the country, she said.
Two of the visa holders arriving at SFO were turned around immediately
and sent back to London within two hours, while the others were
held at the airport, according to Enssani.
Being turned around has obviously had a financial impact on those
denied entry, but it also has affected them emotionally, Enssani
"I really look forward to the reunion," she said. The
conference draws together people who remember an era -- when Iran
was governed by the shah -- to which no one can return, she explained.
The Sharif University of Technology Alumni Association conference
draws professionals from around the world and the U.S., and some
of the registrants from Iran had brought family members on the
30-hour journey to the U.S., Enssani said.
According to Enssani, the Iranians arriving at U.S. ports were
told they could either volunteer to return home or could declare
they wanted to stay in the U.S. and then be subject to deportation
and restrictions on return visits.
San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, an Iranian American,
said the detentions sprung from misguided national policy.
Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi
"It's indicative of the Bush Administration once again exercising
its flagrant misguided and wrongful understanding on how to foster
peace," stated the District 5 supervisor.
"It is absolutely absurd that we would detain and humiliate
Iranians who are visiting the United States - professionals, engineers
from a prestigious university who come here to help celebrate
their profession, people who have been to the United States here
in the Bay Area before.
"But instead of welcoming them as we have all the years
past, because of this saber rattling that the United States is
now entrenched in with Iran and throughout the Middle East, we
are now... punishing those who have nothing to do with this war
and cold war of words we are now penalizing people by sending
people back to Iran."
Mirkarimi proposed an alternative policy.
"If we were to try to be smart about fostering peace then
we would be currying favor as much as we possibly could and endearing
ourselves in this country with the people of Iran."
Information about the individuals denied visas is unavailable
for confidentiality reasons, according to Laura Tischler, spokeswoman
for the Bureau of Consular Affairs in the U.S. State Department.
Tischler said only that her understanding was that the Iranian
visitors were denied entry because their visas were revoked.
The revocations are not connected to current hostilities in the
Middle East, she said.
Visitors can be denied visas at any time and for a range of reasons,
"Iranians are subject to special processing because Iran
is a state that has been designated a state sponsor of terrorism,"
"That's been the case for a few years."
Copyright © 2006 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication,
Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent
of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.
Pat Murphy contributed to this report.