Clemson grad says she can’t return to US; group plans SC airport protest

Massive crowds gather at the White House Sunday to protest President Donald Trump's immigration plan.
Massive crowds gather at the White House Sunday to protest President Donald Trump's immigration plan. TNS

Upstate Coalition for Equality is planning a protest Sunday at the Greenville-Spartanburg airport.

The protest is scheduled for 4-6 p.m. The Facebook event is titled, “Greenville Welcomes Immigrants & Refugees.”

“No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor,” the event photo says.

The local protest was scheduled amid other dozens of other protests nationwide, after President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday suspending all immigration from countries with terrorism concerns for 90 days.

The order hasn’t affected any passengers at Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport, according to an airport official. There was no word whether passengers at South Carolina’s other international airports, including Myrtle Beach and Charleston, have been affected.

“We haven’t been advised by any airline that they have had to deny boarding to any passenger,” GSP spokeswoman Rosylin Weston said Saturday.

Meanwhile, the immigration issue hit home for Clemson University graduate Nazanin Zinouri, who said she was detained Saturday at Dubai International Airport after arriving from Tehran, where she had been visiting family.

“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!” Zinouri said on Facebook. “Yes after almost 7 years of living (in) the United States, I got deported.”

She followed up and said in a Sunday email that she would not 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.”

Clemson President Jim Clements sent a message to the university’s community Saturday night.

“For those faculty, staff, and students who could potentially be affected by this Executive Order, we would advise that you defer any travel outside of the U.S. for the time being if at all possible,” Clements said in an email.

Sunday, University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides tweeted, “We value int’l students, faculty & staff and are committed to their safety and success regardless of religion, ethnicity or nat’l origin.”

Nobody associated with USC has been directly affected yet, according to Chief Communications Officer Wes Hickman.

“We’re working closely with national and international organizations to make sure our understanding of this rapidly unfolding situation is as accurate as can be. We will be holding information sessions for students next week to answer questions and provide guidance along with up-to-date information,” Hickman said.

Trump’s ban also covers legal permanent residents – green card holders – and visa-holders from those seven countries, the Associated Press reported.

Zafer Mohiuddin, president of the Islamic Society of Greenville, said while he isn’t aware of anyone in Greenville who’s been blocked from entering the United States, he said the ban does keep Muslim residents here from visiting parents and relatives who are still living abroad.

Akan Malici, professor of politics and international relations at Furman University, described the ban as “manifestly un-American and a gross violation of our country’s spirit.”

Malici said the ban also makes America less safe.

“The president is playing into the hands of extremist groups like ISIS who want a narrative of a clash of civilizations. Trump is providing it and leading us all towards tremendous danger,” he said.

Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, in a joint statement with fellow Republican Sen. John McCain, said it is “clear from the confusion at our airports across the nation that President Trump’s executive order was not properly vetted.”

The two said the apparent hasty process “risks harmful results.”

“We should not stop green-card holders from returning to the country they call home,” the statement said. “We should not stop those who have served as interpreters for our military and diplomats from seeking refuge in the country they risked their lives to help. And we should not turn our backs on those refugees who have been shown through extensive vetting to pose no demonstrable threat to our nation, and who have suffered unspeakable horrors, most of them women and children.”

But President Trump replied in a tweet of his own, accusing the two of being “sadly weak on immigration,” adding McCain and Graham should focus on other security issues.

Trump later released a statement regarding extreme vetting, saying the executive order isn’t about religion.

Graham also tweeted, “Ultimately, I fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism.”

Meanwhile, Zinouri’s tale is going viral. Nearly 50,000 people had shared her Facebook post by Saturday night.

The data scientist had left Clemson for her annual trip to Tehran to visit family in Tehran on Jan. 20. By Wednesday, “we started hearing rumors about new executive orders that will change immigration rules for some countries including Iran,” Zinouri said.

“Before I knew it, it was actually happening...No one warned me when I was leaving, no one cared what will happen to my dog or my job or my life there.”

RELATED: Clemson engineering grad taken off plane in Dubai

The Greenville News contributed to this report

USC’s statment to students

As you may know, yesterday President Trump signed an executive order titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” The order suspends entry into the United States by most visa holders from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. We understand that for many of you this executive order may be unsettling and that you may be worried about your future at USC. As the Vice Provost for Global Carolina, I would personally like to assure you that the University of South Carolina remains committed to your safety, security and success regardless of your religion, ethnicity or national origin.

The executive order is aimed at new entries into the United States, those not yet in the country, and we believe nothing in this executive order will compel you to leave before the expiration of your status. However, we would advise you to not leave the country in the short term in case the executive order creates issues with re-entry. We will provide additional information and guidance soon.

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