NEW YORK — Mohamed Zandian was just a regular guy excited to see his wife.
Zandian, a 24-year-old doctorate student in biochemistry at the Ohio State University, was born in Iran and has been living in the United States since 2014. He had not seen his wife, Parisa Fasihianifard, for months and drove from Columbus, Ohio, on Friday night to pick her up at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City.
Zandian, who speaks perfect English, arrived at JFK at 8:30 a.m. the next morning with just over an hour to spare before his wife’s plane was scheduled to land.
Waiting patiently in the arrival lounge of Terminal 1, over an hour went by without Zandian hearing anything. He began to feel that something was wrong.
Then what started out as excitement turned to horror.
Zandian received a panicked phone call from his wife, who was just out of sight on the other sides of the gates. She had been refused entry into the United States.
Fasihianifard, who lives in Tehran and also studies biochemistry, is being detained inside the airport — with no legal recourse — and will return on a flight Saturday night to Iran.
She is one of many people feeling the sudden impact of President Donald Trump's immigration executive order, which bans 130 million people — and all refugees — from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iran, from entering the United States under the pretext of keeping the country safe. Trump signed the measure Friday evening. It is already tearing apart families, and no doubt many others will also have to leave the country in turn.
"I am in shock," Zandian said in an interview. "This policy destroys everything good that we thought about the U.S. I too want safety and security for the U.S. But this is not the right way to maintain safety.”
The couple, who met in college and have been married since 2012, are shattered.
“When you cannot live with your loved one, then what’s the purpose of living somewhere?” Zandian said. “You cannot enjoy your life.”
Zandian said he had hoped to remain in the United States after getting his doctorate's to teach biochemistry. But not anymore.
“It’s a sad story,” Zandian said. “I will leave this country with a master's instead of a Ph.D. I will seek a future somewhere else because of this policy.”
As for his emotional state, Zandian said he remained in shock but appeared calm. He says the executive order goes against everything he believed the United States stands for.
As for his message to the American people, Zandian is grateful for the outpouring of support and says the protesters who have flooded to JFK on Saturday give him hope.
"Thank you to everyone who is supporting us," Zandian said. "My sincere hope is that the United States and all its democracy and freedom will not be destroyed."