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What H.R. 158 Must Teach Us


By Jamshid S. Irani, New York

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The recent House legislative draft, H.R. 158 Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act of 2015, sponsored by Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI), to provide enhanced security measures for the visa waiver program and passed by an overwhelming majority of 407-19 in the House of Representative, is a draconian and drastic departure from the constitutionality of the legislative body which empowers its members to draft laws for a civil society which the United States of America has symbolized for almost 300 years. Religious tolerance, underscores respect for ethnicity as well as diversity nationality and opinion, has long been a distinguishing factor of American governance symbolized through the open arm of Lady Liberty beaming hope and equal treatment across the ocean to the aspiring masses. Admittedly, the tragic events of September 11, 2001 and the recent November 13, 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, CA, shootings of December 2, 2015 justify stricter enforcement of national and local laws to enhance and maintain security to deter and prevent such atrocities, however, all is allegedly done and must be verily done equally and indiscriminately within the framework of the law.

            H.R. 158 is a discriminatory and arbitrary law in its existing format which runs against the guarantees of freedoms of religion and speech the founding fathers envisioned for this great nation. Designating four countries (Iraq, Syria, Sudan and Iran) out of 198 countries in the world is clear evidence of the prejudice Congress is embarking on. There is no sufficient reason to justify the differential treatment of VWP citizens who are nationals of Iraq, Syria, Sudan or Iran. The trepid atmosphere in the US, coupled with a hotly divided political campaign war mongering, has paved the way for a final and potential enactment of this defective law.  It calls for anyone from all of the 38 VWP countries who have dual citizenship of any one of the four countries mentioned above or who have traveled thereto in the past five years to apply for a visa to enter the United States. This is an arbitrarily selective bunch of countries. This process is arbitrary, capricious and, if done in another country, tyrannical. There is no shred of evidence linking at least Iranians to a single terrorist attack ever. No Iranian national has ever been charged, not alone, convicted of a terroristic conduct. Since the Iranian revolution of 1979, Iran has been dragged into a United States court just once and it was a civil case in a Federal District Court. There was issued a default judgment against an incompetent Iranian government which failed to make a legal appearance. Iran contested the jurisdiction of the said court. This is the same government which president Obama has repeatedly said does not represent the Iranian people.

H.R. 158 is a discriminatory law based on one's ancestry. Article 976 of the Iranian Civil Code imposes automatic citizenship to anyone born to an Iranian father regardless of where that birth takes place of if the said child ever steps a foot in Iran. Thousands, if not millions, born to Iranian fathers outside Iran are considered Iranian citizens. As such, we are, thereby, guilty not by association but by blood. Neither Iranians in Visa Waiver countries nor Iranian-Americans in the US nor any Iranian descendant have ever had any role in the old or recent terrorist attacks of Paris or California, directly or indirectly, however, we are inserted into a mix of bad apples as the lawmakers know we are sheepish and have no voice. It is a shame that a community, as large, smart and educated as Iranians, has not been able to solidify a base which could rightfully and legally speak up, yet we call ourselves proud, superior and over-achieved. We boast about our 3000 years of history, but we ignore to recognize our ineptitude in the last 50 years. Until then, we will smirch ourselves, be forced to put our heads down and wish for others to defend themselves while praying to God, as we always do, that we too be included in their defense of justice. One might argue we will eventually learn, however, four decades is a clear indication of inability or shear refusal to learn. Our dormancy provides fire for politicians' and lawmakers' stove. Let's hope this will finally wake us up. We will eventually pay a high price for our refusal to learn.

Jamshid S. Irani is a duly admitted attorney in New York City representing clients in civil ligation and deportation cases. Tel: (212) 683-7700,

Take Action: Urge Congress and the White House to Reject Discrimination

- Our allies on Capitol Hill have confirmed that the omnibus will be released soon and the discriminatory provisions of the visa waiver reform bill (H.R. 158) that target Iranian dual nationals and those who have traveled to Iran are included in the bill. -NIAC Action 12/16/15


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