Toronto runner gets Canadian citizenship to trump U.S. travel ban

Torontonian Soroush Hatami's dream of racing in the 2018 Boston Marathon was in jeopardy after the U.S. instituted a travel ban. But he's now a Canadian citizenship and that could be his trump card in overriding the ban.

Soroush Hatami qualified for the Boston Marathon last year, but was barred from the U.S.

Souroush Hatami started running competitively about five years ago and is now set to run in 2018's Boston Marathon. (Barry Smith/CBC)

It appears Soroush Hatami's dream to compete in the Boston Marathon is finally about to come true.

"That's exciting news ... There's a high possibility I can get my passport right on time, and I hope I can make it to Boston," Hatami said. 

The 37-year-old, who emigrated from Iran to Toronto in 2013 and is a permanent resident of Canada, received his Canadian citizenship Friday afternoon.

He hopes it will help clear a major hurdle that has barred him from entering the United States.

Soroush Hatami migrated from Iran to Toronto in 2013 and received his Canadian citizenship Friday afternoon. (CBC)

Last January, an executive order issued by U.S. President Donald Trump blocked citizens of several Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States — including Hatami's birth country of Iran. 

Despite qualifying for the Boston Marathon back in October 2017, Hatami was banned from entering the U.S., based on his Iranian citizenship; a decision he calls "unfair" and "xenophobic."

With over 30,000 runners annually, the Boston Marathon is one of the most prestigious and well-known marathons in the world. (Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)

"Targeting countries and banning everyone from those countries, doesn't help with U.S. national security," Hatami said. 

But now, with the runner taking the oath of citizenship after a months-long application process, he'll be able to apply for a Canadian passport. According to the Government of Canada's website, with express processing a new passport can be delivered in two to nine business days. 

2018's Boston Marathon is set for April 16.

A copy of Soroush Hatami's invitation to appear at his Canadian citizenship ceremony. (Soroush Hatami)

Beyond the race, Hatami and fellow long-distance runner Daniel Sellers say they aren't done fighting against the travel ban and hope to help those who may be caught in similar predicaments. 

"That's great that we're about to realize our goal. However, on the other side, the travel ban is not over and our campaign is not over."

'Bigger issues' at stake

Hatami and Sellers established the Banned on the Run fundraising effort shortly after they learned of the travel ban.

The project's goal is to raise $26,000 US — $1,000 for each mile in a marathon. 

"I've necessarily had to articulate why I think [the travel ban] is not a fair or effective policy," Sellers said. 

Daniel Sellers started the Banned on the Run alongside Hatami in an effort to raise money for organizations that help fight the U.S. travel ban. (Barry Smith/CBC)

The proceeds will go toward two organizations — Muslim Advocates and the International Refugee Assistance Project, Both groups are legal advocates for clients involved in the travel ban. 

Banned on the Run has raised just over $3,000 but Sellers says he is "confident" there will be more donations with more than a month to go before the race. The group has also planned a fundraising run on March 18 at High Park.

Hatami feels fortunate that his case has worked out but that there are "bigger issues" at stake with people who are caught in the the ban, including international students he personally knows who are in the U.S. studying for their PhDs. 

"After the travel ban, they have not left the United States because they know if they leave, they are not able to come back and continue their studies. That's sad."

After the travel ban, they have not left the United States because they know if they leave, they are not able to come back and continue their studies. That's sad.- Soroush Hatami, marathon runner

While Sellers said he couldn't attend Hatami's citizenship ceremony, they'll be racing together in Boston, a goal they said they've been working toward for years.