When politicians say they want to staple H1B visas to foreign students' diplomas when they graduate from American universities, most folks think:
Grads from MIT or Stanford with degrees in science, technology, engineering and math.
But it's not all about STEM when it comes to Boston’s international base of talented and highly qualified professionals.
Take Iranian hotel designer Afrooz Sahraei Esfahani who was just named an “Up-and-Coming Designer” by Boutique Design for her work with J/Brice Design International, based in Boston’s Seaport District.
Ironically her culture and national origin—which will get her kicked out—is what makes her so valuable. Afrooze is able to drive business to her employer’s Boston hotel design firm and thus contributes to our economy.
Sadly, her parents and siblings are all here in the US, studying and working here legally — she is the only member of her family who is in danger of being sent out of the country and thus separated from her family.
Her employer has launched a time-consuming and costly legal challenge to get her a green card. One barrier: the law says J/Brice has to replace Afrooz if the firm can find even a single U.S. citizen with design credentials that remotely match hers.
On paper that’s one thing but the reality is quite different
An accomplished professional in Iran, Afrooz brought her talent to the U.S. in 2013 as a student and earned a Master’s degree in Interior Architecture from Suffolk University last year. The 30 years-old designer also holds a bachelor’s degree in Architectural Technology and Engineering from Azad University in Esfahan, Iran.
Esfahani puts it this way: My passion for Architecture was developed partly due to the fact that I was born and grew up in Esfahan, a city with historical architecture dating back 600 years or more. I was fascinated every time I looked at arcs of the Khajoo bridge, by the harmony and details of its design. The beautiful colors of tiles and proportion of dimensions in Naghshe Jahan square made me more interested in architecture. I was craving to learn how these huge buildings were designed and built so I chose architecture for my career.
“I’m afraid her degrees and all she has to offer will slip between the chairs of government policy making.” says J/Brice founder and CEO Jeffrey Ornstein.
According to a recent article in The Arlington Advocate by Bram Berkowitz:
The fact that someone as impressive as Sahraei-Esfahani is still not a guarantee to get a visa is worrisome to Ornstein and her attorney Shane Parker, a US immigration law specialist. “I’m afraid her degrees and all she has to offer will slip between the chairs of government policy-making,” said Ornstein.
Added Parker, “There is a lot of talk lately about how the US should be run like a business. If this is the case, shouldn’t we be trying to recruit top talent and individuals?”
Her firm needs people who undertand Middle Eastern esthetics. “J/Brice Design specializes in designing luxury interiors for hotels in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Dubai and North Africa as well as the U.S. This makes Afrooz uniquely qualified to not only serve our clients in that region but to contribute to Boston’s economic growth and workplace diversity,” adds Ornstein whose staff of 15 employees herald from the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Korea, China, Haiti, and Montserrat.
Esfahani continues, “I know the culture and customs of the Arabian Peninsula—including the business culture— and, as an Iranian, I have an esthetic and color sense that is unique to the culture and region as well It’s something one can learn about if you come from Wisconsin or Massachusetts but it won’t be steeped in your bones.”
Boutique Design magazine (BD) is the authority on the boutique hotel, spa and restaurant industry.
Afrooz's story runs counter to the current heavy-handed, get-tough Immigration Policy that especially targets people from the Middle East.
by Dick Pirozzolo