Letter from Executive Director -03
About PAAIA, IA-100, & IAPAC -04
Financial Information -25
Boards & Team Members -26
A Letter From the Executive Director
We are honored to present PAAIA’s Annual Report for 2019, a year in
which our staff and partner organizations rose to meet unprecedented challenges. PAAIA worked hard to advance our advocacy efforts and protect our rights as American citizens. In addition to combating discriminatory policies like the Travel Ban, PAAIA has built real bipartisan
momentum and presence on Capitol Hill, allowing us to consistently
advocate for practical measures that benefit the Iranian American community
and help support the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people. PAAIA is
proud of our steadfast commitment to fighting against discrimination in all forms and looks forward to creating a strong discrimination response task force in the coming year.
PAAIA launched its Civic Engagement Initiative this year, encouraging Iranian Americans across the country to get involved in public service and make a positive difference in our communities. Our inaugural forum was held in Washington, DC, featuring seven panels, a book talk with Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, and an evening soiree. We’re grateful for the opportunity to bring this education and engagement to broader audiences and encourage Iranian Americans from all walks of life to participate in the political sphere. 2019 also featured our first regional Civic Engagement Forum event in Atlanta, GA, and in the end of 2019 we had been planning our next regional event, which took place in February 2020 at Stanford University.
Speaking on behalf of our boards, our IA-100 leadership, and all those
served by PAAIA, we wish to express our appreciation and gratitude for
your generosity. We also respectfully ask for your support in what promises
to be an extraordinary year.
Leila Golestaneh Austin, PhD
Executive Director, PAAIA
PAAIA’s active national leadership network which conducts a variety of initiatives that benefit both the Iranian American community and U.S. society at large. (c3)
PAAIA’s connected PAC which promotes & contributes to the election of candidates that are Iranian American or support the interests of Iranian Americans. (PAC)
PAAIA is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, nonsectarian organization that serves the interests of Iranian Americans & represents the community before U.S. policymakers & the American public.
PAAIA’s civic engagement arm which focuses on nonpartisan education and advocacy on issues of importance to the Iranian American community. (c4)
As the leading source of credible information about the Iranian American community, PAAIA serves as an educator for both U.S. policymakers and the American public about issues that are important to the Iranian American community. We do this by writing various articles about remarkable Iranian Americans, providing summaries of educational events, conducting annual surveys, publishing congressional scorecards, and sharing useful information regarding relevant issues such as the Travel Ban.
Since 2008, PAAIA has commissioned nationally recognized pollsters to survey Iranian American attitudes on important topics ranging from domestic issues to foreign policy preferences. The first of their kind, these national public opinion polls raise the voice of the Iranian American community by presenting accurate scientific data to policymakers and the media in order to better their understanding of Iranian Americans. PAAIA uses the results of these annual surveys to inform our policy stances as we advocate on behalf of the Iranian American community.
of Iranian Americans are concerned about increased discrimination
over 8 in 10 have been or have family and friends who have been impacted by the Travel Ban
have personally or know an Iranian American who has experienced discrimination because of their ethnicity or national origin
Trump's handling of U.S.-Iran relations
On January 28th, PAAIA held a congressional poll briefing and panel discussion on Iran. The bipartisan event was held in conjunction with Congressman Gerald Connolly (D-VA) and Congressman Francis Rooney (R-FL) with over 50 congressional staffers, representatives from non-governmental organizations, and others in attendance. The aim was to inform policymakers on the views of their Iranian American constituents, specifically their opinions on U.S.- Iran relations and their hopes for a democratic Iran.
PAAIA presented the organization's survey findings and drew attention to the disjointed U.S. policy towards Iran--simultaneously claiming to support the protesters in Iran while actively banning Iranians from entering the U.S. under the Travel Ban. The following panel included Suzanne Maloney, Director of the Brookings Institution's Foreign Policy program, Alex Vatanka, an Iran specialist at the Middle East Institute, and Dokhi Fassihian, Director of the Middle East and North Africa program at Freedom House.
Twenty members of Congress and more than 200 congressional staff and special guests attended PAAIA's 2019 Nowruz reception on Capitol Hill in March, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Our annual Nowruz reception is part of our broader efforts to foster a greater understanding of Iranian culture and project an accurate image of the Iranian American community. This year's celebration centered on the theme of Iranian Americans in public service. PAAIA honored nine Iranian Americans who exemplify Iranian Americans profound and deep contributions as public servants, including Assal Ravandi, an Army veteran and founder of the Academy of US Veterans, and Lieutenant Colonel Milad Pooran.
In addition to experiencing a beautiful Haftseen and delicious Persian dishes, attendees heard various members of Congress speak about the significance of Nowruz and the countless ways that Iranian Americans contribute to the United States. Our main Congressional Sponsor Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, in collaboration with PAAIA, introduced legislation honoring the Iranian New Year.
PAAIA partnered with Pars Equality Center to launch a 2020 Census campaign encouraging Iranian Americans to fill out the census and write in ‘Iranian.’ The #WriteInIranian campaign was just beginning at the end of 2019 in preparation for the 2020 Census. The census is a population count that occurs every ten years, and historically, the Iranian American community has been underrepresented. This upcoming year, however, the Census Bureau has decided to allow participants to write in their national origin alongside their chosen racial category (or categories).
In light of this change, Pars Equality Center will be
hosting various workshops and events in California
and joined PAAIA’s Civic Engagement Forum at Stanford in February to discuss how to fill out the census. Starting in March 2020, the coalition launched an online ad campaign targeting the Iranian American community and sharing information about the census questionnaire including its accessibility, confidentiality, and importance. We’ve partnered with multiple organizations including the Iranian American Bar Association, Iranian Law Students Association, Iranian American Medical Association, Iranian American Women Foundation, National Iranian American Council, and multiple student groups to help get the message out! Even Maz Jobrani is encouraging our community to #WriteInIranian!
PAAIA fosters the active participation of Iranian Americans in the American civic process. The organization works to develop, maintain, and strengthen relations with policymakers in both the executive and legislative branches of government. In addition, PAAIA uses action alerts, op-eds, statements, and reports to take positions on various pieces of legislation that affect Iranian Americans.
In turn, the Iranian American community is significantly impacted by the Travel Ban. As organizations that represent the interests of Iranian Americans, PAAIA, Pars Equality Center, and the Iranian American Bar Association (IABA) have actively worked to protect the Iranian American community from the unjust effects of the Travel Ban since its inception by filing legal challenges, working with senators to obtain information on the ban’s ineffective waiver provisions, and filing an amicus brief in support of Hawaii in the Supreme Court case that decided the legality of Travel Ban 3.0.
OF IRANIAN APPLICANTS RECEIVED WAIVERS
With a population of more than 80 million, Iran leads the list of banned countries in terms of the number of people impacted by the President's executive order. Among the nations included in the ban, Iran had the largest total number of legal entrants into the U.S. between 2006 and 2015, and in 2017 Iranians accounted for 12,000 of the 17,000 students from the banned countries studying in the U.S.
PAAIA has been at the forefront of the fight against the discriminatory Travel Ban since the very beginning. This year, PAAIA and its coalition partners worked with Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) in seeking clarification from the Trump administration on the implementation of the Travel Ban waivers—given the seemingly low rates of visa issuance. Van Hollen’s resulting amendment requiring public reporting on the Travel Ban was signed into law in February.
Despite the fact that students are exempt from the Travel Ban, there have been en masse visa cancellations and entry denials of students of Iranian nationality. Our coalition reached out to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security (Kevin McAleenan at the time) to obtain clarification as to why these students are being denied. PAAIA and its coalition will continue to work on this issue until it is resolved.
Van Hollen’s amendment requires the State Department to submit a report detailing the total number of visa applicants, pending applicants, and rejected applicants every 90 days to the appropriate congressional committees. This will provide a way for Congress and the public to hold the administration accountable for the Travel Ban’s discriminatory implementation. Since the amendment’s implementation, the number of waivers issued has doubled but still remains low.
Senator Chris Coons and Representative Judy Chu introduced the National Origin-Based Antidiscrimination for Nonimmigrants (NO BAN) Act in both chambers of Congress in April. The bill would repeal the current Travel Ban and amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to prevent future discriminatory bans from being implemented. The bill currently has over 200 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives and 40 co-sponsors in the Senate and is the most comprehensive legislation against the Travel Ban to date.
According to PAAIA's 2018 survey results, 76% of Iranian Americans oppose the Travel Ban
PAAIA has been advocating for the passage of the NO BAN Act through our meetings with legislators as well as our support for the first congressional hearing on the Travel Ban. We sent a statement to the Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship and Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations for their September Joint Hearing on the “Oversight of the Trump Administration’s Muslim Ban.” We were present in the room as individuals shared their stories, experts testified to the effects the Travel Ban has had on American families, and statements were accepted—including ours.
In the lead up to the hearing, we pushed for an Iranian American Day of Action which took place on August 28th. On the Day of Action, Iranian Americans around the country went to visit their members of Congress who were home on recess to encourage them to support the NO BAN Act and Diplomacy First. We prepared a downloadable issue brief for Day of Action participants as well as a digital action alert for those unable to make the trip to district offices. Thousands of Iranian Americans participated.
INTERACTIONS WITH CONGRESSIONAL STAFF
CONNECTIONS WITH MEMBERS OF CONGRESS
As tensions between the U.S. and Iran continued to increase, PAAIA launched a Diplomacy First campaign advocating against an unnecessary and costly war with Iran. Through a robust digital advertising campaign on social media platforms, multiple video messages targeting key congressional committees, Washington influencers, and the Iranian American community, and direct meetings with over 42 lawmakers, PAAIA has been encouraging the U.S. to pursue a diplomatic resolution with Iran.
In addition to launching the Diplomacy First media campaign, PAAIA also developed a “Prevent War with Iran” billboard campaign in Oklahoma and employed multiple action alerts aimed at preventing war with Iran. Our action alerts urging diplomacy first, supporting legislation and amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that prevent unauthorized war, and conveying concerns about potential war, resulted in over 3,000 connections with members of Congress. This is separate from the two statements PAAIA sent to members of Congress, which generated over 300 interactions with congressional staff. Our Diplomacy First website boasts thousands of visits and engagements each month and our meetings with representatives Matt Gaetz (R-FL/1) and Ro Khanna (D-CA/17) helped spur the House NDAA Amendment to prevent unconstitutional war with Iran. PAAIA continues to advocate for a peaceful path forward.
Concerns about discrimination against Iranian Americans continue to grow and political rhetoric remains hostile towards immigrant groups and Iranians. PAAIA has worked behind the scenes with a number of individuals who have faced discrimination due to their national origin and is planning to set up a task force to respond to
future instances of discrimination across the country.
PAAIA's annual National Public Opinion Survey shows that the majority (over 70%) of Iranian Americans are concerned about increased discrimination. 61% of respondents said that they fear for their personal safety and the safety of other Iranian Americans due to the current political rhetoric and policies regarding immigrants, Muslims, and Iranians.
Last year, PAAIA sent a letter to the White House
Chief of Staff and Acting Secretary of State
requesting an independent investigation into the
ousting of civil servant Sahar Nowruzzadeh from
her position at the State Department. This year,
the Office of Inspector General released a report
on the improper personnel practices of officials
in the State Department, including ousting
Nowruzzadeh due to her national origin. The
report provided disciplinary recommendations
for the officials who took part in the incident.
PAAIA hosts Capitol Hill Days each year to discuss issues of importance to the Iranian American community with members of Congress. In 2019, PAAIA's IA-100 and Emerging Leaders met with multiple members of Congress from both sides of the aisle right before our first Civic Engagement Forum! We emphasized the necessity of distinguishing between the people of Iran and the Iranian regime, expanding trade exemptions for telecommunications tools, avoiding unwarranted visa and immigration restrictions like the Travel Ban, and putting diplomacy first.
PAAIA aims to empower the next generation of Iranian Americans by encouraging them to participate in civil service and the political sphere. By providing various internship opportunities and successful Iranian American mentors, PAAIA hopes to give rise to an unprecedented generation of Iranian American leaders. Our various programs seek to create a more civically-engaged community by providing a rewarding experience that helps participants learn about the importance of being active in the American civic process. PAAIA also supports current leaders in the Iranian American community through its IA-100 group.
PAAIA’s Ansari Fellowship Program, generously funded by the Ansari family, is an initiative seeking to encourage and empower young Iranian Americans to pursue careers in public service. Iranian Americans are some of the most successful entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, engineers and scientists in the United States. Yet, for various reasons, many are still not involved in politics or public service more broadly. We are aiming to change that by providing funding for unpaid summer internships, as well as access to a network of public policy experts and mentorship opportunities. Our 2019 Ansari Fellow is Safa Ansari-Bayegan who interned in the Trial Division of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia (PDS).
I am eager to become a public defender who will zealously take on our criminal legal system for each and every client and am deeply grateful for the Ansari Fellowship’s support and belief in my advocacy along the way.
Founded by former PAAIA board member and trustee, the late Dr. Akbar Ghahary, the Capitol Hill Internship Program (CHIP) aims to promote increased civic participation among young Iranian Americans. The CHIP Fellowship seeks to create a more civically engaged community by providing a rewarding experience that helps participants learn about the importance of being active in the American civic process. PAAIA helps place qualified Iranian American college students or recent graduates as interns in congressional offices, where they learn more about the legislative process. The program is unique in that the selected applicants will have their experience on Capitol Hill complemented with PAAIA events as well as opportunities to network with and be mentored by Iranian American staff on Capitol Hill, in the Administration, and working for non-governmental organizations throughout D.C. In 2019, PAAIA's CHIP Fellow was Nikki Adeli.
Legislative Intern for Senator Bob Casey (D-PA)
By taking heed of my own story and perspective as an Iranian American, I was able to meet with chiefs of staff, legislative directors, and legislative staffers to discuss how I could become a stronger advocate for causes that were important to me, on and off the Hill.
of Iranian students
in the U.S. study at the graduate level
Since late 2017, the value of the Iranian Rial has dropped over 75%. This has severely impacted Iranian students studying in the United States, forcing many to drop out and return to Iran without a degree. In response, PAAIA set up a fund to provide grants to Iranian students studying in the United States who are facing financial difficulties. Iranian students in U.S. colleges and universities help build a lasting affinity for America and contribute to critical fields like technology and engineering.
"Since I moved to United States in 2016, Iranian currency has dropped to one fourth of its value. That means that my savings are worthless now. Any sort of help will be appreciated because right now I am getting 4 hours of sleep each day to just pay my tuition for college.”
of Iranian students
in the U.S. study STEM subjects (science, tech, engineering, & math)
PAAIA’s Civic Engagement Initiative is a program committed to encouraging and enabling Iranian Americans to get involved as concerned members of their communities, both nationally and locally. We highlight the success stories of Iranian Americans actively involved in public service and encourage other Iranian Americans to participate in this space. PAAIA’s ultimate objective is to increase the number of Iranian Americans involved in civic engagement. Elements and objectives of this initiative include:
PAAIA hosted the first Civic Engagement Forum in Washington, DC on June 8th. The conference consisted of seven different panels covering various topics including the challenges of running for office as an Iranian American woman, how to effectively advocate for a cause, the need for diversity in the legal profession, the importance of financially contributing to issue based or political campaigns, and what goes on behind the scenes in Congress.
The event was a successful beginning to PAAIA’s Civic Engagement Forum series, and it was followed by a book talk with Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian and an evening soirée featuring an authentic Persian dinner and an opportunity for attendees to socialize and network with each other over dessert and upbeat melodies.
On October 19th, PAAIA hosted its first regional Civic Engagement Initiative event at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. The event featured distinguished panelists and speakers from backgrounds in the public, private, and non-profit sectors, highlighting the to the importance of civic participation regardless of background or profession. Some of the distinguished speakers included Former Director of National Intelligence Lt. General James Clapper, former Director for Solar System Exploration at NASA Dr. Firouz Naderi, Global Chief Marketing Officer Maryam Banikarim and Georgia State Senator Zahra Karinshak.
Kicking off the event, Atlanta City Councilman Amir Farokhi presented PAAIA with a proclamation that October 19th officially be deemed “Iranian American Civic Engagement Day” in the city of Atlanta, honoring the successes of Iranian Americans nationwide and highlighting PAAIA’s work in promoting community engagement and civic participation in the Iranian American community.
IAPAC is the registered bipartisan connected political action committee of the PAAIA. IAPAC contributes to candidates for public office who are attuned to the concerns of the Iranian American community. In addition, IAPAC supports and encourages Iranian Americans to actively participate in the U.S. democratic process and run for public office. As a critical tool in PAAIA’s advocacy efforts, IAPAC contributions are a means of access to discuss policy positions and/or educate our elected officials, assuring that our message is heard on Capitol Hill, and a way to encourage increased community participation.
IAPAC contributes to candidates running for public office, regardless of their party affiliation, who are attuned to the concerns of the Iranian American community. Congressional candidates supported by IAPAC have an exceptional track record on the issues of importance to the Iranian American community, have articulated a readiness to engage and work with Iranian Americans, or are in a position to have influence over the legislative issues of concern to the community. Iranian American candidates supported by IAPAC have demonstrated their commitment to public service, are running viable campaigns, and embrace their heritage. Thus far during the 2020 election cycle, IAPAC has endorsed more than 10 candidates for public office.
IAPAC contributed to 10 candidates for public office & 3 congressional committees
PAAIA members helped raise additional contributions for IAPAC-endorsed candidates
Spending by Category
In 2018, PAAIA spent 32% of our funds on educating policymakers and the American public about our community. This includes funding for our National Public Opinion Survey, Nowruz on the Hill, and our digital campaign to highlight some of the ways Iranian Americans have contributed to the U.S.
Almost 40% of our funds went towards our advocacy efforts, which includes our fight against the Travel Ban and our various efforts to engage elected officials on issues of importance to our community.
The remaining funds were spent on our leadership programs such as the CHIP Fellowship, Emergency Student Fund, and Civic Engagement Initiative. These efforts aim to empower the next generation of Iranian Americans and create a more civically-engaged community.
PAAIA BOARD - 501(c)(4)
IA-100 BOARD - 501(c)(3)
IAPAC BOARD - political action committee