Follow @MarkBrownCSTSean Tehrani’s 67-year-old aunt from Iran flew into Chicago on Monday evening without any fanfare other than hugs and tears from him.
She had been among the many thousands of visa holders who had been blocked from coming to the U.S. by President Donald Trump’s temporary travel ban on visitors from seven predominately-Muslim nations.
That ban was later lifted by a federal judge, and his aunt was able to reschedule her flight. She had to move fast because the travel window on her visa was set to expire.
After arriving at O’Hare Airport, she cleared customs in less than an hour without undergoing any additional questioning by authorities. It suggested a return to business as usual, which relies on advance screening of visa applicants more than airport interrogations.
Follow @MarkBrownCST“I was pleasantly surprised,” said Tehrani, who drove his aunt directly to his mother’s home in Lincoln Park where the two sisters enjoyed their reunion.
Tehrani left them there to go to work at the Basil Leaf Café, the restaurant he owns on Clark Street, and when he returned hours later after closing, he found them still sitting there and chatting away, right where he left them. It was the same when he stopped back Tuesday morning.
Our cultures may be different, but I like to think people are people, and families are families. And I’m pretty sure that’s what my mom would have done if she had seen her sister only once in three decades.
As I explained when I wrote about their situation last week, the story of Tehrani’s aunt was hardly the greatest injustice caused by Trump’s executive orders on immigration. Unlike many of those affected by the ban, she was stranded at home.
But her story illustrated how regular people were caught up in the president’s new policies, all in the name of fighting terrorism.
Naturally, I heard afterward from the fearful folks, the ones who say you can’t be too careful. They like Trump’s executive orders.
And it’s true, I don’t know what any of the lunatics living in this country will do next, including the one in the White House, but I’m willing to take my chances with Tehrani’s aunt.
Tehrani heard from the Trump supporters, too.
“People are just not understanding. They don’t understand the process, but they have a lot to say about it,” he observed. “It’s like talking to a wall at this point.”
There’s a lot of that going around these days.
Tehrani emphasized he’s not opposed to the vetting process, or to toughening it up, but thought it was unfair to change the system haphazardly without warning for those like his aunt who had waited years to get approved through the process.
Before coming here, his aunt worked as an accountant and later as a college professor in Iran.
She’s already made plans to travel to Texas next week to visit her daughter, who has a degree in architecture from Texas A&M University.
Tehrani, a naturalized U.S. citizen, wishes Americans had a better understanding of the Iranian immigrant community and how deeply it is invested in the U.S.
“They leave [Iran] because they’re against the government. That’s why they left,” said Tehrani, who arrived here as a teenager.
“I feel more American than most people who are born here, if that makes any sense,” he said. “I chose this. I chose this country. A lot of people who were born here don’t appreciate what they have.”
I worried when I wrote about Tehrani last week that the story could hurt his business.
“I might lose a few customers over this, but it’s worth it to make people more aware and have empathy for their next door neighbor,” he told me.
Friends tell me the food is very good. Italian, by the way.