In September, my husband and I celebrated our one-year wedding anniversary. Or at least we tried to. Feeling celebratory is difficult in our situation.
My husband, Arya Shoaee, is Iranian, a nationality covered by President Trump’s travel ban, and while the ban is supposed to have exemptions for cases where it creates “undue hardships,” we haven’t yet been granted an exemption and don’t know whether we will be.
As a result, my husband has never been to my home in Los Angeles, the place we hope to make our home.
My husband’s visa request has been in “administrative processing” since Oct. 24, 2018, and we get little information.
Instead we get notifications like this one from May 5 of this year: “We regret any inconvenience, however, we can only confirm at this time that the case remains in administrative processing and unfortunately, we cannot predict the amount of time the administrative processing will take.”
Administrative processing is basically immigration purgatory.
To the U.S. government, my husband is case number NPL2018686001. But to me he is more than a number. He is the man I love.
Arya and I met on February 1, 2017, in Florence, Italy, where he owns a bar and restaurant. We instantly had a connection. I was attracted to him not only because he is handsome, but because he is attentive and chivalrous; goodhearted and generous; calm, wise and intelligent.
He is certainly not a threat of any sort. Under different administrations in the past, Arya was issued multiple tourist visas to travel in the United States and there was never a problem.
Waivers are supposed to be granted in cases of undue hardship when allowing entry would pose no threat and be in the “national interest.” But the government provides little guidance on what those terms mean. And according to published news reports, the government has granted waivers in only a tiny percent of cases.
I have always tried to do my part for my country. As a stand-up comedian, I have entertained U.S. military troops in Iraq, Korea, Guantanamo Bay, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Oman, Singapore, Japan, Guam, the Marshall Islands and a number of military bases in the United States.
But in the current atmosphere, that doesn’t seem to count for much.
The government also doesn’t seem to care about our hardships, either, though they are certainly “undue.”
It is an undue hardship not being able to live in the same place, to cook a meal together or share a goodnight kiss. Paying for monthly international trips and taking costly time off work in order to be together is an undue hardship. Uncertainty is an undue hardship.
When I found out I was pregnant, we had to celebrate long distance, and Arya couldn’t go with me to my first obstetrician appointment. Then, on my birthday, I miscarried, and spent the day in the hospital scared and alone.
We are still hoping for a baby, but I worry that the emotional stress of our separation will cause me to miscarry again. Meanwhile, we have to schedule our visits around my ovulation calendar.
When I was offered a Netflix special, Arya wasn’t here to share my joy, and he could not attend the taping.
I spent years dating before finally finding a man who is kind, smart, loving, stable, family-oriented and emotionally supportive. When we got together and decided to marry, I thought the hard part was over. But it was just beginning.
I have spent my adult life trying to bring joy to people — including men and women in the armed forces who are serving the United States in difficult situations. It’s ironic that now my government is bringing me such pain.
It saddens me that the United States, a nation dedicated to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” and built with the labor and dedication of people from all over the globe, has gotten so off course.
April Macie is a stand-up comedian who currently appears on the Netflix show “Tiffany Haddish Presents: They Ready.”