Since the travel ban kicked in many immigrant families in the Sacramento region have been struggling to help their relatives make a permanent move to the U.S.
If you don’t speak Farsi, you won’t understand what Mike Izadjou says to his fiancée, Shala, when they speak over the phone. But what does translate is the universal smile of a man in love.
“It's not easy to find someone to have chemistry with,” Izadjou said. “She is my life.”
The couple has been engaged for three years now but their long engagement is not by choice.
Mike was born Massoud Izadjou. He’s an immigrant from Iran who has been an American citizen most of his life.
He has been married once and divorced.
He met Shala through a friend in 2015. She was still in Iran but despite the time difference, they talked every day, just as they do now.
Soon, Izadjou was working to get Shala a visa to come to the U.S.
“They filed the application. At that time, it would take nine months to a year to complete the process,” said immigration attorney Doug Lehrman.
In December 2016, Shala’s visa application was approved by Citizenship and Immigration Services.
One month later, the first travel ban was issued by the Trump administration for seven Muslim majority countries. Iran was on the list.
“And our dream and our hope shatters, really. It was just, like, heartbreaking for me,” said Shala’s sister, Homa Afshari.
Already a U.S. citizen, Afshari said their family was crushed to learn Shala’s case was in jeopardy.
“I don’t get the concept. Why do you have to separate people because you’re from that country?” she told FOX40. “It’s not like we selected our religion or our country of origin. If two people love each other, they have to be with each other.”
Unfortunately, for Mike and Shala, the U.S. State Department doesn’t see it that way.
The agency considers Iran the largest state sponsor of terrorism and as the situation worsens between the U.S. and Iran, Mike’s hope is fading.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the third version of the travel ban, Lehrman said Shala’s case, like thousands of others, has gone nowhere.
“They’re telling them your application is pending. We send inquiries,” Lehrman said.
According to the State Department, since the first travel ban, more than 9,800 immigrant visa requests from Iran have been denied so far. In that time, the department gave special waivers for just 161 people.
Lehrman said thousands of cases like Shala’s aren’t even being considered.
“Only a fraction of a percent are being processed at all,” he explained.
Izadjou still dreams of a life with Shala. He recently helped her move from Iran to Turkey and is paying for an apartment there.
But he said that’s only a temporary solution.
“Yes, there are times I get ... my will is not as strong as I want it to be,” he said. “There are times I’m hopeful. There are times I don’t know what to do but I’m hoping things will change.”
So, as an American citizen, why doesn't Izadjou marry his fiancée overseas and bring her to the U.S. as his wife?
Their attorney thought of that. But legally, if they get married, they'd have to apply for an entirely different visa from the U.S. State Department. That process, according to their attorney, would take even longer.