by Hanna Bogorowski
Multiple families of United States citizens currently imprisoned in Iran are urging President Donald Trump and his administration to pull the visas of children of top Iranian officials, according to a Monday report.
The Trump administration has yet to take action on such requests, NBC News reported, leaving the families feeling even more hopeless on the fate of their loved ones in an endeavor the administration once put at the top of its list.
At least four American citizens and one legal U.S. resident are currently imprisoned in Iran, and a few family members have reportedly given members of Congress a list of Iranian nationals living in the U.S., family friends told NBC News.
The list alleges to have relatives of top Iranian officials on it as well as a few of President Hassan Rouhani’s.
When Trump was a candidate, he tweeted that such detainments and imprisonments wouldn’t happen if he got elected.
Well, Iran has done it again. Taken two of our people and asking for a fortune for their release. This doesn't happen if I'm president!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 23, 2016
“I’m at a loss why this administration would be so soft on the regime knowing full well it is these very senior officials targeting innocent Americans for persecution,” Nadim Zakka, whose father Nizar is a U.S. legal resident and is imprisoned in Iran, told NBC News.
“Surely the least we could do is deny their family members the benefits of living and working in our great country,” Zakka added.
One Iranian national on the list is the son of Masumeh Ebetekar, a vice president for family and women’s affairs in the Iranian government, according to the report.
One of Rouhani’s nephews, who reportedly went to college in New York City and currently lives there, is on the list as well.
Friends and family members of those detained say the visas should be used as a sort of bargaining chip in getting their loved ones back home safely.
“We are giving carte blanche to Iranian officials and family members to study and to travel here,” one family friend said, adding that, “We should be scrutinizing them a little closer.”
GOP Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel of New York have both expressed support for these efforts, according to the report.
“The administration should make it clear to the ayatollahs that they’ll get no gain and face crushing pressure from holding American hostages,” Maria Jeffrey, a spokesperson for Cruz, told NBC News. “If that’s not clear yet then more needs to be done.”
Sources in the Iranian-American community confirmed to NBC News that the list of Iranian nationals is accurate in identifying relatives of top Iranian officials.
– – –
Hanna Bogorowski is a reporter for the Daily Caller News Foundation. Follow Hanna on Twitter