US Politics

Muslim Ban: ‘Trump stole two years of my life’


OPINION: Jessica Breitschwerdt met her partner, Pouya Monfared, just before the so-called Muslim ban came into effect. She says that the impact it had on her relationship means that she would never consider voting for Trump.

I had to keep a relationship and a marriage alive and strong from across an ocean because of a decision made by the President. There's nothing he could do at this point that would ever make me vote for him because he literally stole two years of my life.

In December of 2017, I met my Iranian husband. He lived in Spain, and I was teaching and flying in-and-out to see him when I could. Before I knew it, our relationship started taking off and I knew I had met the love of my life.

But a few months later, our romance had to navigate its first roadblock, one most couples wouldn’t even dream of coming up against - our 45th President.

Donald Trump appeared on our TVs and announced a new travel ban, this time banning travellers from a handful of countries - predominantly Muslim - from entering the United States.

Jessica and Pouya had a long distance relationship because of Trump's travel ban.

That had an impact on the speed of our relationship, and I knew it was an unsustainable way to live - flying back and forth - so we set out on our marathon effort to get Pouya to the United States. We started speaking to a lawyer after lawyer, no one really knew what exactly was going to happen, but they advised us that they thought it was going to be a process that probably took a while, and they said nothing would really start for us until we got married.

I was constantly in Facebook and immigration groups, trying to gather as much information as I could. We had to communicate every day through Skype calls or WhatsApp calls - that's also how he got to meet my family for the first time.

In March of 2018, we decided to get married, all the way in Denmark, away from our families. He couldn’t come here for the wedding, so I flew to Europe and we had our ceremony, a moment we could share for the rest of our lives - but one those closest to us couldn’t be a part of.

When I returned to the US, I was more invigorated than ever - and started doing the immigration paperwork to turn in to start our process. We finally got approval to proceed to the next step, which was the interview at the embassy and my husband and I spent hours gathering documentation, gathering proof of our relationship.

I sent a package to immigration that was probably around hundred dollars of just pictures and documents. I mean, an extensive, like two page table of contents of everything. At that point it just became a waiting game, every day you're going on to the embassy website and logging in to check your status. I lost myself in activism, speaking out about our struggle and those of many others like us - and found out I was pregnant. In the middle of the storm, I thought I would have to face the birth of our first child alone.

Fortunately after our perseverance, my husband got approval to arrive in the US the day before Thanksgiving, just before our baby was born.

We continue to do our best to speak out, to help the organisations that are fighting against the travel ban, and that's one of the reasons I believe in telling our story, because I think it's something that has slipped out of the minds of so many people with everything else going on in the US at the moment.

But there's a lot of people who are still miserable and still stuck in this unfair process. And especially with COVID-19, borders have really shut down with immigration, making it even harder.

A lot of us refer to Trump's travel ban as a Muslim ban because it primarily targets Muslim countries, and only select Muslim countries - certainly places like Saudi Arabia and some places that would make sense to be part of a travel ban were conveniently not included.

America was built on immigrants and that we've always been a land of hope and a promise. And I pray that we can get back to that again, that we can welcome different people from different cultures to our shores, different people from different cultures. I think that's what makes America truly great and truly an amazing place to be.

I know my life is richer because of my Iranian husband.

The views in Dateline’s ‘US Election Diaries’ series do not represent the views of SBS. Over the course of the US presidential campaign, SBS Dateline will hear from different voices in a bid to understand different voting intentions. For detailed coverage of the 2020 US Election, visit SBS News’ dedicated election page.