LOS ANGELES – When Sara Yarjani handed her passport to an immigration officer at Los Angeles airport she was sure she’d be waved through customs, as had happened before. Instead, 23 hours later, she was deported.
The 35-year-old Iranian graduate student became one of the first victims of the chaos unleashed by President Donald Trump’s executive order blocking citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iran, from entering the United States.
Yarjani, who spoke by telephone late Monday from Vienna, where she is a permanent resident, said her ordeal began shortly after her plane landed Friday evening and — unbeknownst to her — Trump’s travel ban had kicked in.
“I had been on holiday in Canada to see my sister and then went to Austria and was coming back to resume classes,” said Yarjani, a student of holistic health at the California Institute for Human Science, located north of San Diego.
“I was not expecting to be stopped,” she said. “I had previously entered the country and was treated very well … and gone through customs within minutes.”
This time she quickly realized that it would be different, as the immigration officer took her passport and ushered her to a waiting area.
Two female officers who barked orders patted Yarjani down as she stood against a wall with her arms raised. She was told to remove her shawl, her jewelry and shoe laces, and was asked to hand over any cash as well as her cell phone — all of which were later returned.
Yarjani said after nearly four hours of waiting and questioning, during which she was allowed no phone calls, an officer compelled her to sign a form agreeing to deportation on grounds, he claimed, that her student visa was no longer valid.