President Donald Trump has repeatedly said his approach to preventing terrorist attacks on U.S. soil won’t always be tidy. That’s especially true when it affects things like the already delicate task of compiling a wedding guest list. Just ask Shervin Taheran.
If reinstated by the judicial branch, Trump’s travel ban may prevent many family members and friends from entering the United States to celebrate personal milestones with their loved ones.
The new administration’s executive order temporarily denying entry into the United States to individuals from seven predominantly Muslim countries and all refugees has been, for now at least, blocked by federal courts. It is designed, the White House says, to keep would-be “radical Islamic terrorists,” to use the administration’s preferred term, out of the country.
Although no court has ruled in Trump’s favor, the president has said he may take his case to the Supreme Court, with his top aides saying he is “confident” he would win a case on the legal “merits” of his authority to issue such an order.
As the administration mulls its next move, which could also include signing a new executive order, Taheran, 24, suddenly must deal with uncertainty as she plans an April wedding. That’s because her family is Iranian, and many of her loved ones still living in Iran want to travel to Texas to watch her nuptials in person.
Iran, a country the president has been trading barbs with, is on the travel ban list.
Taheran, who is from Dallas and graduated from Southern Methodist University, has a venue booked in Houston and said “the show must go on” even if some family members and friends are unable to enter the United States if Trump’s order is eventually reinstated.
She said the multiple court rulings putting the order on ice makes her “hopeful, largely because the court orders are displaying the system of checks and balances that our country prides itself on so much.” Still, she told Roll Call she “realistically chooses to expect that this immigration and visa … battle will continue on between the administration and Congress and the courts for far beyond my wedding day.”
Upon hearing about the order a few days before Trump signed it at the Pentagon on Jan. 27, “the first thing I thought was, ‘What do I tell my mother?’” said Taheran, who lives and works in Washington. “She’s been planning this wedding for a year, but she can’t have family and friends who live abroad come because of an executive order?”
“I certainly don’t have the worst of it,” she said. “I was born and raised in Texas. There are thousands of other Iranian-Americans in Texas who are going to be affected as well.”
Taheran, a program associate at the Arms Control Association, sees a certain irony in the executive order’s mandate, essentially tamping down the spirit of a day she describes as being all about “bringing together these two separate cultures.”
She comes from a Muslim family. Her St. Louis-native fiance’s family is Catholic.
A few days before Trump put pen to the paper on the travel ban, Taheran, who has worked on Capitol Hill, decided to “hit the pavement,” armed with a copy of a draft form of the order that had been leaked to the media.
What she found were understanding staffers in the offices of the Lone Star State’s Republican senators: Majority Whip John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. The aides she met with said they had not previously seen the order. She also reached out to aides in the office of Texas GOP Rep. Ted Poe.
“I would love to see Cornyn, as a leader, to come out strongly opposed to this,” Taheran said.
The Cornyn and Cruz staffers listened, but their bosses have done little publicly to alter the Trump administration’s course.
Still, Taheran said she feels “heartened by the responses I received by my congressional offices.”
“Though we ended up in fundamental disagreement with each other, and I wish my senators and representative would have been much more strongly opposed to what I still believe is an ineffective [order] that does not actually make America safer, the staff I spoke to were very respectful of my opinion,” Taheran said.
What’s more, “each of the three offices directly offered to help me by putting me in touch with their caseworker to see if there was anything they could do to help,” she said. “It reminded me again how important it is to put a real face to these executive orders.”
Cornyn, the state’s senior senator, has seemed lukewarm about the order, though he said recently, “I certainly support the vetting of refugees coming into the country.” Embracing tougher vetting was a common message from senior GOP lawmakers in both chambers after the order set off widespread protests.
The majority whip also said the new administration botched the order’s implementation because they “got in a big hurry,” adding that he was glad Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly later clarified how it does not apply to legal permanent residents.
Cruz, on the other hand, has fully embraced Trump’s action, calling it in a statement a “commonsense step” and dismissing concerns about it as an overreaction.
“I commend President Trump for rejecting [former President Barack Obama’s] willful blindness, and for acting swiftly to try to prevent terrorists from infiltrating our refugee programs,” Cruz said. “In contrast to the hysteria and mistruths being pushed by the liberal media, President Trump’s executive order implements a four-month pause in refugee admissions so that stronger vetting procedures can be put in place.”
Regardless of lawmakers’ actions, the order is likely to be tied up in court challenges for some time. Experts predict other lawsuits from opponents could ultimately push the Supreme Court to decide whether it will stand.
And that makes, for instance, wedding planning an even more difficult task than before.
“I told her we’re not sure what’s going to happen,” Taheran said of her subsequent conversations with her mother, pausing for a moment. “I told her I might step out publicly on this issue [because] we want to put a face to this executive order. She got really quiet and said, ‘We’ll just see what happens.’”
“Persians have a saying, ‘This too shall pass,’” she said with a nervous laugh. “That’s how we’ve kept our sanity for the last 5,000 years.”
As she and her mother continue planning her big day amid uncertainty about family members’ ability to attend, Taheran expects the Trump order to remain front and center.
She said she expects the administration “will fight tooth and nail simply because it seems like Trump views everything in the lens of ‘winning’ and ‘losing,’” adding that “as cynical as it is, it’s much easier to plan for the worst, unfortunately, than to hope for the best.”