At Brides, we believe it is important to talk about both the wonderful and difficult aspects that come with marriage in the United States. In a new series, we explore the ways in which President Donald Trump’s temporary travel ban affects our notions of family. From issues with parents attending weddings to the impact on childbirth, here we’ll talk about real lives being affected by the executive order.
“I loved being held by her,” Alex Shams, an Iranian-American PhD student, says about his Iranian grandmother. “After hearing the beautiful Persian lullabies she sang for me day after day, my mother says I had trouble getting used to my crib—or being held by anyone else!” While he was lucky enough to have his father’s parents visit as a child, he—and many other Americans—are aware that Trump’s travel ban will make this impossible for millions of Americans. The ban targets visitors from Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen, as well as refugees.
It prevents anyone who does not hold a “close” family connection from visiting. And for those looking to start their own families, it’s a terrifying proposition. Grandparents and extended family provide vital support; without them, many families wouldn’t be able to raise a child at all.
You can see the frustration and the impact of the ban through resistance online. People have been coming forward to share their experiences on platforms like the Instagram account @BannedGrandmas. It showcases grandmothers (and grandfathers) who are not allowed into the U.S. under the ban, which now has been altered to include grandparents as “close family” (remember, nothing is set in stone until the Supreme Court of the United States hears the case in October)—a decision that Jeff Sessions has vowed to appeal.
Accounts like @BannedGrandmas are so important, first, because they highlight the ridiculous (and, frankly, racist) underpinnings of the ban—these people are grandparents, not terrorists!—but also because they show the human faces of those affected by the ban. Seeing real people drives home the impact for so many, such as this grandmother who will be missing her grandchild’s Columbia University graduation.
And for many Americans looking to start families of their own, it's often impossible to imagine doing so without the support of grandparents and extended family. To put some perspective on the number of people affected, there are currently 1 million Iranians living in America—and that’s only one of the countries affected by the ban. Here’s another number for you: Nearly 5 million children in the U.S. are raised solely by their grandparents. For many, the idea of starting a family without the potential for extended family support from grandparents, uncles, and aunts is unfathomable. Many parents rely on their extended family’s help to look after children while they go to work. Low-income families often need to work long hours, at multiple jobs, and often during the hours when children need to picked up or dropped off from school or daycare and need family members to pick up the slack. And that’s not to mention single parents, for whom the aid of a family net can be life sustaining.
But in addition to the practical considerations, cultural traditions often come into play. Many of us grow up hearing stories about our grandparents’ or great-grandparents’ upbringings in other countries. There’s a fear that those stories, that influence, will be lost. “Those lullabies also helped me learn Persian, as hearing the beautiful sounds of that language’s poetry from an early age gave me a base for when I began to study it many years later to keep in contact with my dad’s family,” Shams says. “And we all enjoyed Grandma’s cooking—delicious meals of pomegranate and walnut stews, and chicken spiced with saffron.”
But he worries that the ban will keep these cultures from being passed on, suffocating those cultures within the U.S. until they eventually become snuffed out completely. “This means that my connection to my father’s homeland would have been severed, that I would never have seen my grandfather before he died, and that I would never have heard those Persian lullabies or eaten those delicious Persian meals as a child,” Shams says. “Trump’s ban is an attempt to stop people like me from ever existing. It’s an attempt to break apart families like mine, and to force us to cut off our connections to our loved ones far away.”
For both practical and cultural reasons, the idea of keeping extended family abroad and American-born children apart is devastating for families. Many new mothers rely on grandparents or aunts and uncles for a spare set of hands—especially those of us who are not lucky enough to have parents still with us. But the loss of culture should not be written off as sentimental either. America is, or is meant to be, a melting pot of cultures, and that cultural mishmash is what keeps our children open-minded and able to connect on a human level as they grow up. Cutting off those cultures and their influence on family members who have settled or been born in America will have a huge impact on the meaning of the American family and how we evolve as a country.