An Iranian engineer is returning to the South Carolina city where she works thanks to the opening created when a federal court suspended President Donald Trump’s travel ban against seven Muslim nations.
A spokesman for an Atlanta-based public relations firm said in an email Sunday that Nazanin Zinouri had cleared through a U.S. immigration check in Boston. Rick Toller said Zinouri expected to return home Monday to Clemson, where she works for a startup technology firm.
Toller said Zinouri spent about 30 hours traveling from the Iranian capital, where she was visiting family since late last month. Zinouri, who has lived in the United States for seven years, is scheduled to arrive at Greenville-Spartanburg Airport at 12:30 p.m. Monday.
“It’s just amazing, unbelievable really,” Zinouri said in an interview with www.independentmail.com. “Everything that I lost I have back now. … It’s great.”
Zinouri wasn’t the only one pleased about her return. U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott shared their appreciation after both made efforts to help her get back to the U.S.
“This is good news!” Graham said in an email to The State. “I know she has lots of friends and co-workers who can’t wait to see her. Like everyone else, I’m happy she’s almost home.”
“My office has been working with Dr. Zinouri for the past week and I am glad to have received confirmation she has arrived on U.S. soil today,” Sen. Scott told The State in an email.
Zinouri graduated from Clemson University with a doctorate in industrial engineering in 2016. For the past 6 months, she has worked at a Greenville technology firm as a data modeler, her Linkedin page states.
“The last 48 hours have felt a lot longer than 48 hours,” Zinouri said in an interview with foxcarolina.com. “It was chaos, it was a lot stress, it was a lot of shock and it was hearing the rumors, and then going from the rumors to actually something happening that would possibly affect my entire life and trying to somehow address the problem. Trying to get back as soon as possible.”
She said she didn’t know what was going to happen to her life back in Greenville – the place she calls her home.
“Greenville is home for me,” Zinouri said to foxcarolina.com. “I really officially started my adult life there and I built my home after graduation in the Greenville area because that’s when I graduated and started working at Modjoul. Greenville has been home and the place where I started.”
She was working for Modjoul, an Upstate technology firm, when she took a trip to Iran to visit family in Tehran in January. Trump ordered a 90-day suspension of immigration and travel from Iran while Zinouri was away, and she was taken off her flight in Dubai while attempting to return to South Carolina.
“From what I’ve been told by her friends, she was taken off a plane in Dubai, and the TSA agents in Dubai said it was a result of the order issued by President Trump,” said U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-Seneca, when he visited Modjoul last week. “If that’s the case, we’ve made a mistake. My goal is to protect America from terrorists coming into our country, not to keep this young lady out.”
President Donald Trump’s executive order bars citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen from entering the United States.
As many as 100,000 visa holders were reported affected, the Justice Department said. The State Department revised that number down to 60,000, saying the higher figure, mentioned in court, included diplomatic and other visas that were exempted from the travel ban.
Zinouri posted about her predicament on Facebook.
“After waiting in the line to get my documents checked and after 40 minutes of questions and answers, I boarded the plane to Washington, only to have two TSA officers getting in and ask me to disembark the plane!
“Yes after almost 7 years of living (in) the United States, I got deported.”
She followed up and said in an email that she wouldn’t be allowed to board a plane to return to the United States. Zinouri said, “those trapped in the airports are free now. Bad news is no airline will board any Iranian on any plane heading to the U.S. So there’s still no way for me to return.”
Zinouri earned her PhD in industrial engineering from Clemson, and was also awarded the 2016 Janine Anthony Bowen Graduate Fellow award which recognizes outstanding academic performance.