On March 26, a sold-out crowd excitedly awaited the performance of internationally celebrated Iranian vocalist Alireza Ghorbani at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Orange County, California, as part of Pacific Symphony’s 2022 Nowruz Concert. But Mr. Ghorbani never showed up.
The day before, while boarding his flight to California, Mr. Ghorbani was approached by officers from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection at Pearson International Airport in Toronto.
For several hours, Mr. Ghorbani was questioned by CBP agents, who ultimately refused his entry into the United States due to his military service in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps over 30 years ago.
Aside from the personal devastation of having his visa canceled, Mr. Ghorbani could not understand how he conceivably posed a risk to the United States: he is a permanent resident of Canada.
Had already toured the United States on multiple visas vetted by CBP and the U.S. State Department, and recently was approved by the United States Customs and Immigration Service for an EB-1 visa, affording him permanent residency solely based upon his extraordinary career achievements.
Mr. Ghorbani explained to CBP agents that military service in Iran for men over the age of 17 is mandatory and that his duties consisted mainly of clerical office work.
CBP not only disregarded Mr. Ghorbani’s reasonable explanation of his service, but they also ignored the U.S. Consulate’s review of his visa eligibility and their extensive assessment that he did not pose a security threat. Iranian
In reality, there was little that Mr. Ghorbani could say to convince an empowered CBP to permit him entry into the United States, as his denial can be traced back to a rash, ill-considered action by the Trump administration to designate the entire IRGC as a terrorist organization.
The unprecedented decision to classify an entire military branch of another country as a terrorist group was undoubtedly rooted in politics, as no evidence exists to show that Trump’s move has protected or saved American lives.