One of Thousands: How the Immigration Ban Affected This MIT Undergrad
Niki Mossafer Rahmati, an undergraduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), was denied re-entry into the United States after visiting her family in Iran due to an executive order signed by President Donald Trump on January 27.
The sister of Sigma Kappa's MIT chapter was unable to board a connecting flight in Doha, Qatar, back to MIT, even though she holds a current multiple-entry student visa.
After being detained at the airport, the mechanical engineer major took to Facebook in a post that has since been deleted describing her experience being sent back to Iran after being rejected access to her connecting flight from Doha, Qatar to the U.S.
Currently, she is one of 38 MIT students from Iran. There are also five from Syria, one from Iraq, two from Sudan and one from Somalia, the registrar's office reports on its 2016-2017 geographic distribution of students page.
The ban is now currently on hold because of a decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which allowed Niki to re-enter the U.S. on February 3.
"We strongly believe that MIT and institutions of higher education must remain open and accessible to scholars from around the world," Cynthia Barnhart, Chancellor of MIT, said in an email to The Tech, the university’s oldest and largest newspaper while Niki was still stuck in Iran. "We are committed to removing all barriers to talent."
Rahmati was just one of about 90,000 people affected by Trump's travel ban, The Washington Post reported on January 30.
Hundreds protested at Boston's Logan International Airport on January 28, the day after the executive order was signed, while thousands banned together at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport when the word of two Iraqi refugees being detained got out.
Niki is an involved student. She is the Executive Vice President of the MIT Panhellenic Association and volunteers at Camp Kesem, spending hours each year fundraising to support children whose parents have had cancer, a change.org petition states.
Just two days after her arrival, she posted to Facebook on February 5:
A Facebook event titled: "Bring Niki Back Virtual Phone Bank" featured a script and instructions to call the representatives of Massachusetts, which led Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren to take the senate floor addressing the ban on January 30.
Her college roommate, Chantal Acacio also posted to Facebook, comparing what Trump sees of her roommate versus what she sees:
Her friends and the MIT community continue to stand up for her and those denied access to the U.S. during this time.
They created the trending hashtag, #BringNikiBack to raise awareness to not just her situation but to the thousands going through similar ones.
L. Rafael Reif, President of MIT, who is also an immigrant and child of refugees, urged the community to remain united.
Now with Niki back at MIT, the community is rejoicing.
The latest MIT email from L. Rafael Reif reads as follows:
"I am delighted to share the news that the two undergraduates previously blocked from returning because of the January 27 executive order on immigration were able to come back to us this afternoon. It is a great relief to be able to welcome them home to MIT!"
The New York Times created a video of those returning to the U.S. at the airport after the ban was lifted, showcasing many of those who fell into similar situations as Niki:
Photo Credit: Reuters