I've always embraced my American identity. At 8 years old, I came home from school crying. I had found out that I could never be president of the United States. Because not only am I an American, I am also an Iranian.
Now, as a fully grown woman, 1 still sometimes come home crying. My people are under attack, and I had to sue the president. Because not only am I an American, I am also an Iranian.
And I understand what it's like to lose my home, country and sense of belonging.
I was only 2 when my family came to the United States. We fled revolution-torn Iran in search of a new beginning. America gave us that opportunity, and so many more. It became home. After the Trump administration's ban on travel from several predominantly Muslim nations was issued, I called my older sister crying, "They want to ban us. All of us."
My sister remembers how unwelcome she felt when she first got here, years before I was even born. "Mana," she replied. "They used to chase us with bats." She knew an era of bigotry against our community that passed before I arrived.
Despite my large, extended family, I grew up with only my parents and siblings. My grandparents, aunts and uncles were denied entry into the United States. I had to reconcile my identity as an Iranian and an American (and simply being a child and teenager) with a limited support network.
These experiences are why I helped to build an organization called Iranian Alliances Across Borders (IAAB) and dedicated my career to empowering young Iranian Americans. They find strength in defining their identity and culture for themselves through summer camps and leadership programs, bringing together their families and building community in return. These youths are remarkable: They are curious, they are bold, and they have bright futures ahead of them. They represent the best of what it means to be Iranian and American.
But the ban has wreaked havoc on their lives. Now they, too, are chased with bats--words wielded as weapons.
It is a horrifying realization to see, almost 40 years later, this fate as the horizon for a new generation. A reversion back to a prior time with a hyphen, a barrier between Iranian and American. One IAAB member (or IAABers, as we call them), sociologist Neda Maghbouleh, fears that we may even be among the last of our kind.
So our organization sued over President Trump's travel ban in October. It was the first challenge to the administration's third revision of its ban. And we won. The...