LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Fatemeh Alamdari has been fighting with the U.S. immigration system for years.
In 2014, Alamdari won the Diversity Immigrant Visa lottery, a program established by the Immigration Act of 1990 which gives 55,000 immigrant visas every year.
The lottery granted visas for Alamdari and her two children, but not for her husband, Farshad Amirkhani.
It has now been six years since Amirkhani has seen his wife and children.
“He’s missing days that we cannot replace. He’s not with them to see how they grow, how they do. He’s missing everything about them,” Alamdari said. “We cannot replace being together with FaceTime.”
Over the years, challenges have delayed the family’s reunification.
In 2017, the Trump administration issued an executive order to ban travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries, including Iran.
The act blocked all the progress Amirkhani’s case made in the span of two years.
“Still, I have hope. If I did not have hope I would not be here, so still I have hope,” said Alamdari.
Amirkhani applied for a waiver to the travel ban. When the family experienced little to no progress, Alamdari joined 14 Iranian American families in a federal lawsuit suing the U.S. government over the travel ban in 2019.
However, the lawsuit did not guarantee when or if they could reunite as a family.
With the visa progress stalled, Alamdari turned to the American flag for relief. She became a U.S. citizen in March, which provided her family an exemption from the travel ban’s restrictions.
Then COVID-19 happened.
“It’s almost one year that he’s stuck because of the pandemic,” Alamdari said. “The kids were excited that I’m getting my citizenship. He will be here soon. But it’s still nothing.”
In January, President Joe Biden signed a presidential proclamation which reversed the 2017 travel ban. Even with one roadblock out of the way, Amirkhani’s case is still facing challenges brought about by restrictions placed to curtail the spread of COVID-19.
Amirkhani only needs to renew a medical exam in the U.S. Embassy in Turkey to be approved for his spousal visa. However, due to the pandemic, the embassy is only providing services to Turkish citizens and residents.
Amirkhani has not been approved to transfer his immigration case out of Turkey, leaving the family in limbo again.
“No options. Just waiting,” Alamdari said. “We are unlucky.”
With little else to do other than wait for the global pandemic to end, Alamdari said they are focusing on keeping hope alive and dreaming of what being reunited as a family will be like.