Notre Dame student from Iran is one of us
Letter to the Editor | Friday, January 31, 2020
This letter to the editor was written on Tuesday in response to a New York Times article published on Saturday titled, “‘Demeaned and Humiliated’: What Happened to These Iranians at U.S. Airports.”
This past weekend as I was reading the news, I was shocked to see our University’s name in an article concerning an issue nobody on this campus seems to have heard about: Hamid, an international student about to start at the University of Notre Dame this semester, was denied entry to the United States at O’Hare International Airport and sent back to Iran. He was one of at least 16 Iranian students since August of 2019 to have been denied entry to the United States and forced to abandon their plans to attend a university in the U.S.
According to coverage by the New York Times, Hamid was denied entry on Jan. 11, the same weekend all Notre Dame students were returning to campus for the spring semester. Admittedly, tensions between the U.S. and Iran were extraordinarily high at that particular moment – his attempted entry to the United States came merely three days after Iran had fired missiles upon a U.S. military base and tragically shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet.
After arriving at O’Hare, Hamid was questioned about his thoughts on the downing of that jet and placed in a holding cell for 19 hours. The next day, he was sent back to Iran. It is possible the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers had good reason not to admit Hamid, but the lack of information provided to justify that decision coupled with the timing of the incident makes it appear that he could be the victim of profiling and discrimination based on nationality.
Hamid had already waited eight months for his visa to begin the joint master’s and Ph.D. program in engineering he had been accepted into at Notre Dame. Upon his arrival to the U.S., this member of our Notre Dame community was treated, in his own words, “as if I was some sort of terrorist. It was both humiliating and dehumanizing.” To make matters worse, this humiliation is not a temporary setback. According to reporting from the New York Times, it appears that Hamid (along with the other 15 students sent back to Iran) will be unable to re-enter the United States for the next five years, a devastating roadblock for their future plans.
I do not know Hamid personally – I don’t even know his full name since he withheld his surname from the New York Times article. However, as an enrolled student at the University of Notre Dame, he is (or at least was) one of us, a member of the Fighting Irish. I can only imagine how traumatic it must be to have waited so long for a chance to study at the University of Notre Dame only to have that chance cruelly ripped away at the doorstep.
I am disturbed by the lack of information made available to the Notre Dame community about this incident. His story deserves more than silence. He could have touched our lives with his presence on this campus, and we his, but we have been cut off from that chance. Even if our University and student body are powerless to reverse the decision in Hamid’s case, we owe him more than ignorance. We owe him solidarity. We owe him an effort to prevent this from happening again.
If Hamid was deemed admissible to the University of Notre Dame, he certainly should have been admissible to the United States of America.
Mary Elsa Henrichs
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.