Middlebury College Professor Delays Return From Iran In Wake Of Trump's Executive Order

Jan 31, 2017

Ata Anzali is an assistant professor of religion at Middlebury College and an Iranian citizen with a green card. He's been in Iran on sabbatical doing research, and he is now dealing with the issue of when to return to the United States with his wife and children.

Immigrants from Iran and six other countries are subject to a temporary suspension of entry into the United States, as called for in President Donald Trump's executive order last week.

Initially, Anzali and his family had planned to leave Iran this past weekend.

"We had booked tickets for Sunday and as the news basically leaked of the executive order of the president, we got really worried ... We basically canceled our flight because we didn't want to be detained or deported at the border," Anzali told Vermont Edition on Tuesday.

Although Anzali and his family are legal U.S. residents - and one of his children is a citizen - he was concerned by conflicting reports on how the order affected people with green cards.

After consulting with a lawyer and the college, Anzali says they decided to wait in Iran, but have since made a plan to travel back to the United States this Friday.

Anzali says his work factored into his choice to immigrate to the United States.

"The reason why I chose to stay in the United States after I got my Ph.D. from Rice University was I thought I would have a better chance of doing what I want to do," Anzali explains. "My research is in Islamic studies. I teach about the Muslim world to my students. And as you know, religion is a highly politicized and sensitive issue in Iran. So my impression was that I would have a better time and a better opportunity to teach freely and do research and educate in the United States."

Anzali adds that the current situation has been a confusing time for him and his family.

"After hearing something like this – a ban like this – it's really disappointing for us when we think about a country that prides itself in ... freedom of speech [and] freedom of religion to create such a situation," he says.

Listen to the full interview from Vermont Edition with Anzali above.