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This Photo Series Shuts Down The Myth Of The Deserving Immigrant

"[This] is a call to action. A claim of what is ours."

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Meet Maria Rohani and Sameen Ahmadnia. They're both 26-year-old Iranian-Americans concerned about President Trump's recent executive order banning refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority nations.

"The order, or 'Muslim Ban' — phrasing used by Trump during his own Presidential campaign — is unfounded, illegal, unconstitutional, and discriminatory," Rohani wrote on Feministing. "But worst of all, it is personally devastating to the individuals it impacts, to their families, friends, and communities."

With the help of photographers on both coasts, the two activists decided to launch the photo series #BanThis, an initiative that tells the stories of immigrants who feel directly impacted by the current political climate.

Sameen Ahmadnia

"Lots has been said about the exceptional things that refugees and immigrants do. Which is wonderful," Rohani tells BuzzFeed. "But what we wanted to highlight with #BanThis is that immigrants add to America in daily and mundane ways, too. In so many ways, the America you know — the ordinary places you eat, the ordinary experiences you have — is a byproduct of immigration."


"We wanted to work against the myth of the 'deserving' immigrant or refugee," says Rohani.

"You shouldn't be allowed into America just because you are an exceptional doctor or lawyer. You should be allowed here because you are human and you need a place to go."

They spoke to Jill, 28, a writer whose background is Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Belgian, and Cuban.

Justin McCallum / Via

Jill's family came to the United States to "survive the war." Her claim to fame is her ability to "tell bad jokes in multiple languages."

The pair also met with Sammy, 27, who works at Twitter as a Client Partner and has a Sudanese background.

Micaela Fein / Via

Sammy came to the US via his father’s pursuit of higher education. Hailing from a taller-than-average family, he knows "the United States would be a shorter country without us."

And heard from Ilaha, a 37-year-old humanitarian with Afghani roots.

Micaela Fein / Via

Her family came to the US to escape war and seek peace. Nowadays, they get together for family picnics. Their Thanksgivings consist of a "themed costume party," featuring Afghan rice along with turkey and traditional holiday fixings.

They also talked to Austin, 29, a senior analyst for whom one half of his family hails from Germany.

Aaron Hedquist / Via

His family moved to the states to seek opportunities after WWI. Without him or his German half — "which some might argue is my better half," he says — "the US would be missing a beer connoisseur."


And chatted with Sidra, 25, an environmental planner from Saudi Arabia.

Omar Moinuddin / Via

Though her family immigrated to the US to allow her and her siblings to seek higher education opportunities, she extends her accomplishments beyond the classroom, and considers herself "an amateur creative, environmentalist, shoe collector, and cookie appreciator."

Maria knows her community wouldn't be the same without her quirky family that's "always willing to share a cup of coffee and a little bit of Persian poetry with you."

To see more photos from #BanThis, or to submit your own, visit their website here.


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