NIU alumna returns to US

By Lindsey Salvatelli

BOSTON | Alumna Nazanin Zinouri told reporters Monday if it hadn’t been for the support she’s received, she doesn’t know how she would have coped with the possibility of being unable to re-enter the U.S.

Zinouri, who was stuck in Tehran, Iran, posted a photo of herself on Facebook outside of Logan International Airport in Boston following her return.

Zinouri received her master’s degree in industrial systems and engineering in 2012 from NIU, where she achieved a 4.0 GPA.

On Jan. 20, she set out on a three-week vacation to visit family and friends in Tehran, according to a Feb. 5 CNN article.

Her plans were interrupted Jan. 28 after President Donald Trump issued an executive order temporarily barring citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S.

“I didn’t see this coming any time soon, so this is definitely beyond whatever I could imagine,” Zinouri told CNN reporters Monday.

The executive order, which bars most immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Sudan, was put on hold Friday by U.S. District Judge James Robart of Washington. Robart’s halt on the travel ban has gone into effect nationwide.

Robart found that the executive order affected those “in areas of employment, education, business, family relations, and freedom to travel,” according to the Feb. 3 ruling.

The U.S. Justice Department filed an emergency appeal on Saturday to reinstate the travel ban but was denied by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, according court documents.

The court heard arguments Tuesday and said it would most likely reach a decision this week, according an archived video of the hearing.

Zinouri, who received her doctorate from Clemson University in August, holds an optional practical training student visa as well as an employment authorization form, according to her GoFundMe page.

Robart’s ruling reversed Trump’s Jan. 28 executive order, which gave foreign nationals with valid visas and green cards a window of return, according to a Feb. 6 response to the Department of Justice’s emergency repeal.

The optional practical training extends her student visa for 12 months. Before leaving for Iran, her employer, computer software company Modjoul, assisted her with her green card application process, according to Zinouri’s GoFundMe page.

The key provisions being halted allow green card holders and persons with work visas re-entry to the U.S.

Zinouri’s story went viral after writing a Jan. 28 Facebook post that captured a reality for those who were affected by the travel ban. Since then, her story has echoed through news outlets such as Politico, Forbes and The Washington Post.

After Zinouri stepped off of her plane Sunday in Boston, she was greeted by representatives from her alma mater Clemson University and Eric Martinez, CEO of Modjoul, friends and her dog Dexter, according to CNN.

Though she was with family, Zinouri said she was unable to enjoy her time in Iran because she was worried about returning to the U.S.

“I was just exposing [my family] to more stress and anxiety and sadness,” Zinouri told the Associated Press Monday.

Modjoul representatives invited individuals outside of the company to join Martinez via Twitter Monday when Zinouri arrived at Greenville Spartanburg International airport, to which she had a connecting flight.

“Just knowing how much certain things mean to me, how much certain people care about me… that’s definitely amazing,” Zinouri told CNN.

Once in South Carolina, Zinouri told the Associated Press she wanted to go back to a normal life.

“A lot of times ‘normal’ is the best thing you can ask for, and I’m just going to try to put this behind me, just have the good learnings from it and just go back to the normal daily efforts,” Zinouri said.