Sometimes you’re reminded of why you do the work you do.
I received that reminder recently when a friend of mine passed a letter to me after we convinced a federal judge to block President Trump’s first Muslim ban. When I opened it and read it, I cried. But these were tears of joy, a humbling reminder that principled dissent works in this great country of ours.
In her letter, Z, a doctoral student, recounted how she flew into John F. Kennedy International Airport after President Trump issued his discriminatory travel ban. Since Z’s a citizen of Iran, one of the seven Muslim-majority countries originally singled out by President Trump, she was facing imminent deportation back to her country. But after hours of detention, she heard that a federal judge in Brooklyn issued a stay after the ACLU successfully challenged the executive action in court. She was allowed back into the country to continue her studies.
Z’s letter also reminded me that we have the easy job — to advocate for people whose rights are being denied. It’s the courage of individuals like Z — who persevere and are willing to fight back — that I and the entire ACLU find truly inspiring.
Here’s the letter reproduced in full. Thanks to Z for sharing. It made my day.
-- Anthony D. Romero
Dear Mr. Romero,
I cannot begin to thank you, and the ACLU, for your timely intervention that saved me from imminent removal and from being sent back to Iran.
I was stranded at JFK and about to be put back on a plane when the federal court ordered the stay, thanks to the tireless efforts of the ACLU. The ACLU’s diligence, preparation, and foresight saved many people from return.
Facing a stark choice between withdrawing my request to enter the U.S. or refusing to do so, and thus being removed and barred from reentry for five years, I was sure that either way I had lost the ability to ever return to my studies as a doctoral student.
Like many others, the aftermath of this event will negatively impact my future travels for my studies. I feel immense gratitude and respect for everyone involved at the ACLU, especially at a time when civil liberties are under threat from many different angles. Please accept my most heartfelt thanks and allow me to extend on behalf of many other international students our sincere appreciation of your hard work in maintaining the best values in American society.
I hope that all of us can repay our debt by upholding this spirit of compassion and dedication in the future.
With best regards,