U.S. travel ban means an uncertain future for couple separated by the border
Just a few weeks ago, Sahab Masoumian was in Edmonton, visiting his girlfriend Saghar Sobhani. Both born in Iran, they met four-and-a-half years ago in Turkey as refugees waiting to start their new lives in North America.
Today, Masoumian, lives in Irvine, California. He has no idea when he'll see his girlfriend again.
U.S. President Donald Trump's recent travel ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries means he will be barred from returning home if he leaves the U.S.
"[I'm] devastated, to be honest with you," he told CBC News. "It was a surprise and yet it wasn't a surprise."
Sobhani was thinking about flying down to California for Valentine's Day before the announcement.
"A long-distance relationship is hard, because you don't know when you're going to see the other person," she said.
Not willing to take the risk
The two were practically inseparable for a year after they met in Turkey.
"He was my best friend for a long time," Sobhani said, adding it was their mutual friends who suggested they should date.
Masoumian moved to the U.S. in April 2013 to study aerospace engineering, and Sobhani moved to Edmonton one month later, to study commerce at the University of Alberta. Before the travel ban, Masoumian had no trouble travelling from the U.S. to visit Sobhani.
"Ever since I got my green card, it was really easy for me," he said. Sobhani had to apply for a travel visa, but she too had little issue.
Now, with confusion about whether the ban includes Canadian and American dual citizens, Masoumian and Sobhani still aren't taking any risks.
"Some of [the restrictions] are lifted, but I don't think any of us are comfortable [travelling]," he said. "Donald Trump has kind of proven to be really unpredictable.
"I'm not willing to gamble here and risk this kind of trip and find myself stranded in the airport at the end."
As for Sobhani, she doesn't want to risk getting a travel visa.
"I'm sure if I get denied once, it's going to be hard to get another visa," she said.
Masoumian admitted he's no expert in U.S. law, but at first, he questioned the legality of the president's actions.
"I didn't know he can basically deny entry to someone's home," he said. "I call [the U.S.] home."
'It's given me another reason to raise my voice again'
But Masoumian says he's thankful that his situation is slightly better than others who have been affected by the travel ban.
"Luckily, at least I wasn't one of those poor refugees that was stuck in the airport," he said.
In April, the couple will be celebrating their fourth anniversary. They were hoping to celebrate by travelling together somewhere in the U.S. or Canada.
Masoumian is optimistic that by April, he will be able to see his girlfriend again. Sobhani is too — she's hoping the travel ban isn't still in place then.
"It's not going to be a major problem in the long run," Masoumian said. "Eventually, it's going to go away."
He said this restriction has helped him remember the importance of supporting others.
"[I'm] devastated, but at the same time, strong," he said. "It's given me another reason to raise my voice again."