Bring Alireza Dadkhah-Jazi Home sign now

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This article printed in Salt Lake City Weekly on July 22, 2004
(by Ted McDonough)

Flight Delay
U.S. security regulations wonвt let an Ogden man return to his family.
Ogden resident Alireza Dadkhah-Jazi left town one year ago for a two-week visit to England. His wife and daughter havenвt seen him since.
Beginning in June 2003, Dadkhah-Jaziвs life has resembled that of the character in Tom Hanksв man-without-a-country movie, The Terminal. Instead of an airport, Dadkhah-Jazi haunts the U.S. Embassy in London. Weeks turn into months as he waits for the background check that will allow him to rejoin his Utah family.
A British citizen born in Iran, Dadkhah-Jazi has run into a post-Sept. 11 law that requires security checks for all visitors who have ties to countries listed as state sponsors of terror. Iran, part of President Bushвs вAxis of Evil,в is on the list.
At first, Dadkhah-Jazi was told the security check would take three weeks. Later he was told to stop annoying embassy employees; they would call him. Now he is crashing on the sofas of friends in London.
вItвs like Iвm in a jail. Itвs not a holiday,в he said by telephone from London. вI am running out of friends and relatives. I donвt know what to do anymore. If the American embassy would tell me: вOK, we are not going to give you a visa,в I would tell my wife to sell the house. But they wonвt tell me.в
Dadkhah-Jazi and his wife, Patricia, came to Utah in 2000 from England. Their 3-year-old daughter, Rosie, is American by birth. Patricia has gained government permission to stay and teach at the Ogden Valley Montessori School.
Patricia thinks her husband should be easy to vet. He ran an antique market in London after working as a veterinarian. Like all Iranian men, he served a stint in the military, but вitвs a clearly bureaucratic life,в she said. вI canвt see how we fit the profile of anything.в
Itвs a story Chrystal Williams of the American Immigration Lawyers Association has heard before. Williams gives the Bush administration credit for streamlining background checks required by the 2002 border security law, but said вonce somebody gets caught in the process, this kind of wait isnвt unusual. ... We havenвt found a way to resolve it. It just goes on and on and on.в
Getting the green light may require approval from a number of government agencies. For security reasons, exactly which agencies are doing the checking is kept secret, even from embassy employees.
Since her father has been away, Rosie has learned to swim and write her name. In a recent telephone call, she told him of buying new shoes: вI am in size 10s now.в
Patricia has dramatically cut back on work, reducing the family income, in order to take over the childcare duties once covered by Alireza, a stay-at-home-father for three years.
вEvery time I speak to my daughter, I get very upset because I canвt hold her,в he said.
Dadkhah-Jazi ran afoul of the U.S. immigration system once before. In 2001, he traveled to Iran for his brotherвs funeral, and was fined on the way back for not stopping at the U.S. Embassy and getting a new visa. His old visa wasnвt good anymore since his wife was now working in Utah.
With that lesson in mind, the Dadkhah-Jazis planned ahead for Alirezaвs 2003 trip. Before leaving, Dadkhah-Jazi made a visa appointment with the U.S. Embassy in London. He said a government employee was in the act of stamping his passport when the employee noticed Dadkhah-Jazi was born in Iran.
Kelly Shannon, spokeswoman with the State Departmentвs Bureau of Consular Affairs, said privacy rules prevent her from talking about Alirezaвs case. In general, she said, background checks have been streamlined with 80 percent completed in less than three weeks.
Typically, she said, a person who became a legal worker after entering the country would need to go through the motions of leaving the United States and reentering in order to get a visa for a spouse.
Williams said thatвs an incorrect, but not uncommon, interpretation of the law.
The Dadkhah-Jazis said their immigration lawyer received assurances Alireza could apply on his own. Patricia said her lawyer has advised her not to leave the United States, lest she be caught in the same trap as her husband.
вThe whole thing is so frustrating,в she said. вOf course, we wish he never [had] traveled, but why shouldnвt he? Heвs not a terrorist. We donвt know any terrorists.в

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    Please help Alireza Dadkhah in his case. His family are anxiously waiting for him.

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Natasha KnightBy:
ReligionIn:
Petition target:
U.S. Congress

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