NPR for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Due To Travel Ban, Iranian Family Fears It Won’t See Ailing Grandfather Anytime Soon

Stella M. Chávez
Raha Pouladi, Reza Sadari and their daughter, Porochista, in their Dallas apartment.

President Donald Trump’s travel has affected many groups of people -- including college students. Raha Pouladi is a PhD student in North Texas -- she and her family were looking forward to a visit from her parents this spring. The problem? They live in Iran – one of the seven Muslim-majority countries under the temporary ban.

Raha Pouladi and her husband are in their living room, watching their four-year-old daughter Porochista Sardari at the piano. She recently taught herself how to play “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”

Porochista has been excited to see her grandparents, who live in Iran. They were supposed to visit in late March, but President Trump’s travel ban has put those plans on hold. Pouladi is worried for her parents, but also for Porochista.

“Oh my God, how am I going to tell my daughter? You know, ‘Spring’s going to come, but your grandparents won’t,’” Pouladi said. “Until now, I haven’t told her yet, but I don’t know what I should do.”

Credit Stella M. Chávez / KERA News
Porochista Sardari is 4 and recently taught herself to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

Pouladi’s father has been in failing health. Last year, he was diagnosed with dementia and has been losing his ability to walk. She feels time is limited.

“Because of my father’s health, we don’t know what gonna happen tomorrow,” Pouladi said. “So we don’t have to take every day as a granted thing.”

Pouladi was born in Iran. That’s where she met her husband, Reza Sardari. In 2011, they moved to the U.S. to attend the University of Texas at Arlington, where they are both PhD students studying urban planning. They both have student visas. Pouladi said was upset when she learned about the President’s travel ban.

“First of all, I was so disappointed and I was just like hit, like a big rock hit on me,” Pouladi said. “And then, I guess, [I] felt kind of like confusion mixed with anger or sadness. Like, why this should happen?”

Across the country, people with ties to the seven Muslim-majority countries listed in the executive order have a lot of questions about the travel band and concerns about their loved ones.

The 90-day ban affects people in Iran, as well as Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Libya. Even though the president’s order is temporary, Pouladi is concerned the ban will be extended. Still, she says she’s always been thankful to live in the U.S.

“I never felt like unwanted in this country. I came here as a symbol of the free world, but now I feel rejected from the society and I don’t want daughter to feel same way,” Pouladi said.

College officials across the country have weighed in, including leaders at UTA, which has been cited as the fifth most diverse college campus in the U.S.  The university says its students, faculty and staff come from more than 100 countries. UTA president Vistasp Karbhari issued a statement this week urging students and staff from one of the seven banned countries not to leave the U.S. for now.

Credit Stella M. Chávez / KERA News
Four-year-old Porochista Sardari has been asking her parents if it's spring yet because that's when her grandparents are supposed to visit from Iran. Under the temporary travel ban, they won't be able to come for 90 days. Porochista's parents worry the ban will be extended.

At their North Dallas apartment, Pouladi plays with her daughter. She’s still struggling to understand the travel ban -- much less explain it to Porochrista, who was born in the U.S. They still hold out hope that Porochista’s grandparents are coming.

“Are you excited for spring?” Pouladi asks her daughter.

Yes,” she answers.

“Why?” Pouladi asks her. “Who’s coming? Your grandparents?”

“Yesss.” Porchista answers.

Pouladi grew up in Iran during the war with Iraq in the ‘80s. She says she understands the fear of terror, but doesn’t understand the reason for banning an entire nation from the U.S. If anything, Pouladi says she feels she loves the U.S. more than some because she sacrificed so much to get here.

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.