Following travel ban, an Anchorage lawyer may have less family at his wedding

John Parsi is an Anchorage attorney and immgrated to the United States at a young age from Iran. (Photo by Wesley Early/ Alaska Public Media)

Iraq’s neighbor Iran is on President Donald Trump’s recent travel ban list. John Parsi is of Iranian descent and is an Anchorage attorney. He was born in London during the Islamic revolution in Iran. Parsi’s father was a translator for the British and U.S. governments. He said they were forced to move back to Iran when he was three years old. He has a memory of a neighbor’s home in Tehran being bombed. He said he ran outside and the house was gone. He says his family were Zoroastrian, a small religious group that was not treated well after the revolution. His family eventually was granted asylum in the U.S and moved to Arizona in 1985. His parents still live there. Parsi said he’s getting married in the fall and worries his Iranian relatives may not be able to attend the Alaska wedding.

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PARSI: I have one cousin who has fled Iran, again for religious persecution reasons. She’s Zoroastrian and was able to make it to Austria, while there is a U.S. agency that assists people who are religious minorities, Bahia, Jewish, Zoroastrian and Christian who are escaping Iran for religious persecution purposes. They work hand in hand with the U.S. Government to get those people, generally to Austria but to Europe and then from Europe to the United States. So her status, her ability to come to the United States, obviously in limbo, restricted for the next 90 days but in limbo for an unknown amount of time.

TOWNSEND: In the order, President Trump said that persecuted religious minorities would be given priority. He mentioned Christians, but do you think there may be a pathway for your cousin who is in this limbo status right now and the fact that your family comes from a small religious minority, Zoroastrian.

PARSI: I’m not sure, because the discussion so far has primarily been about Christians from those areas, but that part of the ban or the provisions within the ban that permit people who are members of religious minority groups, the only one that I’m aware of that has been identified are Christians, hasn’t really gone into effect, so we don’t know what the impact will be there. Which religious faith will be selected as being permitted to enter or not enter or what that process will look like.

TOWNSEND: Do you think there is any merit to the concerns of the side that says, “Look we have to make sure the Uited States stays safe. So we’re going to do this, even if it’s a little jumbled and confusing for people. This is of national security interest.” Do you think there’s merit in that?

PARSI: Yes. I think there’s merit to say that there are security issues and we should be concerned about national security. 100 percent. But I think where I would disagree with that is that I don’t think that a hasty decision, made in this manner, being selective of countries. The kind of way this plan was implemented does very little in my mind to produce that security but instead creates confusion. But I certainly think there are plenty of people who believe that this policy will provide security and that motivations of security are perfectly fine, I just don’t think that this policy, the way that it was implemented, that those things are going to have that desired outcome.

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Lori Townsend is the News Director for the Alaska Public Radio Network. She got her start in broadcasting at the age of 11 as the park announcer of the fast pitch baseball games in Deer Park, Wisconsin. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for more than 24 years. She was the co-founder and former Editor of Northern Aspects, a magazine featuring northern Wisconsin writers and artists. She worked for 7 years at tribal station WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Reservation in Wisconsin, first as an on-air programmer and special projects producer and eventually News Director. In 1997 she co-hosted a continuing Saturday afternoon public affairs talk program on station KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota. Radio brought her to Alaska where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting. Following her work there, she helped co-found the non-profit broadcast company Native Voice Communications. NVC created the award-winning Independent Native News as well as producing many other documentaries and productions. Townsend was NVC’s technical trainer and assistant producer of INN. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Her print work and interviews have been published in News from Indian Country, Yakama Nation Review and other publications. Ms. Townsend has also worked as a broadcast trainer for the Native American Journalist’s Association and with NPR’s Doug Mitchell and as a freelance editor. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Townsend was the recipient of a Fellowship at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in Rhode Island as well as a fellowship at the Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley. She is an avid reader, a rabid gardener and counts water skiing, training horses, diving and a welding certification among her past and current interests. ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8452 | About Lori