BBC reporter and presenter Rana Rahimpour broke down in tears at Heathrow airport on Tuesday.
Rahimpour, her 2-year-old daughter and two of her Iranian-British cousins were planning to catch a flight to New York. They wanted to be in New Jersey this weekend in order to surprise Rahimpour's brother and his family for her nephew's sixth birthday.
But she was told that because she was born in Iran, she can't go. She'll need to apply for a visa to travel to the US.
— Rana Rahimpour (@ranarahimpour) January 19, 2016
Not long ago, Rahimpour would have had no problem hopping on a plane and heading to the US. She would have been covered by what is called the "visa waiver program," which allows nationalities of 38 countries, mainly European, to visit the US without a visa.
But after the San Bernardino attack on December 2, legislation was passed in the US Congress to limit the visa waiver program. Now people with Iranian, Iraqi, Sudanese and Syrian nationalities would have to apply for a visa to enter the US. That's not all. European nationals who have traveled to one of these four countries in the past five years will have to apply for a visa as well.
— Bahman Kalbasi (@BahmanKalbasi) January 20, 2016
This change was put forward as a way to stop terrorists from traveling to the US freely. But the San Bernardino attackers were of Pakistani origin and so many in the Iranian-American community feel like they have been wrongly targeted. Rahimpour feels the same.
“What I find quite disappointing is the fact that President Obama,” she says, “in all these years has repeatedly addressed Iranian people and he said that he differentiates between the Iranian nation and the Iranian politics but unfortunately the new legislation is targeting ordinary Iranian people all over the world. And it’s not just Iranians. We’re talking about Iraqis, Syrians and Sudanese as well.”
Rahimpour says with the new legislation in place, many are reconsidering visits to Iran.
"[Iran] has relied a lot on reviving its tourist industry and the new legislation is going to put off many Europeans who are planning to finally visit Iran but now they think it's too much of a hassle," she says.
She gives the example of her own in-laws.
"Some of my in-laws were planning to finally go to Iran now that the sanctions have been lifted, but now they're all having second thoughts because they think it might not [be] worth it," she says.
From PRI's The World ©2015 Public Radio International