Ottawa

Trump travel ban brings uncertainty for Iranian-born Ottawan

An Ottawa man born in Iran says he's worried about travelling to the United States even though he has a Canadian passport. Travellers of Iranian nationality or dual nationality are not permitted to enter the United States for 90 days.

3-month ban applies to Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen

Rachel Walker, centre, and her daughter Evelyn, 7, front, join others in protesting an executive order signed by U.S. President Donald Trump restricting immigration from several Muslim nations Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017, at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, in Minneapolis. (The Associated Press)

The front of Amin Asadollahi's passport might say Canada, but he's worried a line inside could cause problems.

"In my Canadian passport it clearly says place of birth, which is Iran," he explained from Ottawa.

U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order on Friday temporarily curbed travel to the U.S. for people coming from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iran. Initially, it seemed Canadians with dual citizenship from those countries would also temporarily be barred from entering Canada's neighbour to the south.

Amin Asadollahi was born in Iran but now lives in Ottawa. (International Institute for Sustainable Development )

The Prime Minister's Office said in a statement late Saturday that "we have been assured that Canadian citizens travelling on Canadian passports will be dealt with ‎in the usual process."

The news from the PMO came hours after the U.S. State Department told CBC News the 90-day travel ban covers all people who have a nationality or dual nationality with Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen — which would include tens of thousands of Canadians.

Asadollahi said he "would still feel not so safe travelling to the U.S." despite assurances from the PMO.

"Guess I have to just try it and see what happens. I was already being randomly selected and at least now they can be more honest about it," he said. "[The] sad part is that this takes us to Nazi-era policies and one person can throw us back decades."

Previous issues at the border

Asadollahi was born in Iran but left at a very young age and considers himself "an agnostic atheist." He no longer has a valid Iranian passport but is still considered a citizen.

He said Trump's ban allows government to profile people. 

"What this does is excludes people solely based on religion, race and ethnicity — and it's a racist policy."

Even before the order came down, Asadollahi said he's been interrogated at the Ottawa airport. As the lead on climate change mitigation for North America at the International Institute for Sustainable Development, he travels to the U.S. for work.

What this does is excludes people solely based on religion, race and ethnicity — and it's a racist policy.-  Amin   Asadollahi

"The U.S. border guard was very clear that I was being questioned solely because of my place of birth. I have faced discrimination in my past because of my place of birth," he said.

Trump also signed an order imposing a 120-day ban on refugees entering the U.S.

"It's concerning to hear that people who are fleeing from authoritarian regimes no longer can find refuge in the U.S. and it revokes all the racial tensions that civil rights movements have been fighting for for decades and it takes us a few steps back," Asadollahi said.

On Saturday, a U.S. federal judge issued an emergency court ruling to stop the Trump administration from deporting visa holders detained under the executive order. The American Civil Liberties Union, which sought the temporary stay, said it would help 100 to 200 people with valid visas or refugee status who found themselves detained in transit due to Trump's order.

While not mentioning Trump directly, many Canadian politicians tweeted out their support of refugees. 

On Saturday, Ottawa-Centre MP Catherine McKenna tweeted out a photo with the caption, "I am proud of the work of my constituency office. We are able to help many refugees who have come to Canada settle in their new life here."

Canadians can ask for their place of birth be omitted from their passports, but Citizenship and Immigration Canada warns they may have difficulty obtaining a visa or experience delays at the border.

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