Today President Donald Trump signed a revised travel ban that will temporarily halt entry to the United States for people from six majority-Muslim nations who are seeking new visas.
When the administration announced the original iteration of its ban in January, tech companies like Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, and Google took legal action against it. Leaders in the tech industry at large have expressed concerns about potential changes to work visa programs, as many employees at these companies rely on them to work in the US.
Soon after the travel ban was announced in January, San Francisco-based photographer Helena Price made a public call for immigrants working in Silicon Valley to tell their story and to take a formal portrait with her. Below are portions of the six interviews she conducted in her studio.
Omid Scheybani is an Iranian citizen who was born and raised in Germany. As a young adult in 2011, Scheybani moved to San Francisco to work in tech. He describes the city as the 'place where I grew up.'
'I owe the city a lot. I feel very connected to San Francisco and overall to the entire Bay Area,' he told Price.
Though he has lived in the US for nearly seven years, Scheybani didn't fully consider himself an immigrant until President Trump announced the original travel ban in January.
'Until two weeks ago, I never even thought of myself as an immigrant. It was a label that I never used. It wasn't part of my identity,' he said. 'I know I was not an American because I didn't have the citizenship, but I always saw myself as a fully contributing and highly integrated member of the society, paid my taxes, embraced American values, lived the American dream in many ways, and suddenly you get this stamp on you which says you're an immigrant.'
Tavakoli's family moved from Tehran, Iran, to the Bay Area when he was two years old.
'Immediately after Trump was elected, my first thought was, 'Thank goodness my son looks white,' which is a terrible thought to have. There's something psychologically profound about being labelled an enemy even though I have nothing but love for this country and its potential,' Tavakoli told Price.
'In the eyes of so many people who don't know me, who don't know my family, just having a bias against us that we would want to hurt them in some way is troubling at best.'
'I was actually born (in the US), but I lived most of my life in Syria. I grew up in Syria, and around middle school, I moved to Egypt. Then, in college, I spent two years in Egypt, then finally made the decision that I want to come here and continue my education here and live my life here as well,' Tarik told Price.
This is Tarik's fifth year in the US, and while he's no longer a practicing Muslim, he's become 'disheartened' by the negative rhetoric surrounding Islam.
'It seems like there was sort of hidden hate that's surfacing, and it kind of makes you feel unwanted, undesired, and unwelcome,' he said.
'I am from Beijing, China. I have been here for three and a half years, and I've been making a lot of friends here and really like living here,' Ruthia told Price.
After completing a masters program at Carnegie Mellon, Ruthia became a product designer at Facebook, however she might not be approved during the lottery for an extended work visa this coming April.
'If anyone asked me where I will be in three months, I will say I don't know because my visa, it will expire this May,' she said. 'I need to get into a lottery, which I have only 60% of chance to win the lottery, and then I can extend my visa. If I cannot get it, I will have to leave the United States and go to another country.'
Originally from Cuba, Valdivia moved to Florida after his family had spent time in Costa Rica. He was just 16 when he arrived, and he had to adjust to American life quickly.
He spoke to Price about what he's found challenging about living in the US: 'Whether it's white or black, Hispanic or American, Muslims or Christians, whatever it is, there's always this tribalism of, 'We are right, and you're wrong.' Just seeing that kind of resurface from the subconscious to the outspoken has been pretty eye opening, and I think it makes America, as a country, pretty vulnerable.'
As for more recent developments, Valdivia told Price that he can no longer say, 'I'm not into politics.'
'It seems irresponsible to say that now, especially given where I am in the position of privilege and the targets of this administration,' he said. 'It feels like there must be something I need to do, and I can't check out. It's just impossible. For me, that's been the biggest emotional change in how this has impacted me.'
Safaie was born in Iran, but he moved to Sweden when he was just seven. He came to study advertising in San Francisco and has worked in the US on and off for seven years.
Safaie explained to Price what it feels like to be an immigrant in America: 'You always have to be 10 times better than everyone else. You have to work harder than everyone else. You have to prove yourself better than that. Even if you do that, something like this comes along, a ban. No matter how good you've been, it just clumps you together with everything else and takes away everything personal and everything that you've fought and worked for.'
'As a Middle Eastern foreigner, I'm used to it by now.'
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