Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences Embrey Human Rights Events Events

Searching for the American Dream in Preston Hollow

Preston Hollow Advocate

Originally Posted: February 3, 2017

*Shirin Tavakoli was one of the first SMU students to graduate with a major in Human Rights from the SMU Embrey Human Rights Program.


Last year, we shared the stories of SMU students and faculty who came to the US in search of the American dream. As discussions about immigration bombard the news, we followed up with Shirin Tavakoli, an SMU graduate and Iranian immigrant, to see how the immigration order has impacted her life.

Shirin Tavakoli

Shirin Tavakoli wasn’t surprised when she learned President Donald Trump signed an executive order that temporarily bans citizens of seven Muslim-dominated countries from entering the US.

It was clear that immigration reform was one of the president’s top priorities as a candidate, she says. She became a U.S. citizen in October, even though her green card would not have expired for another two years.

The immigration order didn’t shock her, but she couldn’t help but feel fearful and frustrated, she says. Her father lives in Iran but holds a US green card, and she’s unsure when they’ll be able to reunite.

“It was a host of emotions, but the emotion that spoke the most to me was anger,” she says. “I was very, very angry. Not just because I was born and raised in Iran, not just because people weren’t being afforded the same opportunities I was, but because this ban doesn’t address terrorism. Iranians aren’t terrorists.”

For Tavakoli, the immigration order perpetuates a stigma against Iranians and immigrants in general, she says.

“The misconception is that immigrants are coming to this country, and they’re bad,” she says. “Without them, we would not be a leading country in science, technology and, for a matter of fact, business.” READ MORE