Banned Scientists

Documenting the impact of the immigration ban on U.S. science

Aboozar Tabatabai


Mit And Marine Biological Laboratory

In 2010, I came to the United States on a student visa to pursue my doctoral studies in oceanography at Rutgers University. I worked closely with scientists from NASA, NOAA, and several other American institutions on the physical and biogeochemical interactions in the ocean and their effects on the environment and the climate. I am currently a postdoctoral scientist working on improving global ocean models. I have not been able to leave the U.S. for scientific meetings or family visits for the past 7 years as a result of already extremely strict visa regulations for Iranian citizens. My family and I have been affected, even further, by the recent executive order to indiscriminately ban citizens of select Muslim-majority countries from the U.S.

My valid visa will end in a few months and all existing and new visa applications from Iranian citizens have been halted for at least the next 90 days. As it stands, even though my employer is willing to apply for a new working visa (and no, there are no American citizens who can do my job!), my family and I will have no legal status and will be forced to leave the U.S. in the middle of my research project funded by the National Science Foundation. This happens to coincide with the time my family is expecting to welcome our second child into the world. It is uncertain if we will have an income, access to health care, or even a country to live in by this summer. The humiliation, uncertainty, and confusion are overwhelming. This situation has imposed a great deal of stress on my personal and professional lives and made me consider seeking employment outside the United States, a country we had always thought of as "home".