Travel ban hits close to home
Samira Abdelrahman is nervous, frustrated and sad, all at the same time — it’s the best way she can describe the wave of emotions she’s felt since hearing about the recent travel ban.
President Donald Trump’s executive order keeps those from seven primarily Muslim countries which are, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Iran and Syria out of the United States for a period of 90 days, and refugees out for 120 days except those from Syria, who face indefinite barring from the United States.
“When I first heard about the ban, I was just thinking how crazy it was, and [I was] in disbelief. Then I did a little of my own research about the ban, and read up on the countries that were on the ban list,” Abdelrahman said. “That’s when I found out about Sudan being one of the countries on the list. I feel like there is a lot of uncertainty around it on the end of the people who it effects….”
Abdelrahman, who recently graduated from Maharishi University of Management, is half Sudanese. Her father immigrated here more than 30 years ago.
“My dad’s side of the family is from Sudan, but I was born here in the U.S.,” she said. “He is from the northern part of Sudan, Khartoum. They are Muslim.”
For Abdelrahman, the ban hit extremely close to home, since her father recently married a woman from his home country. The couple has a new baby girl.
Her father returned to the states last fall, leaving behind his wife and daughter who were preparing to immigrate to the United States.
Now a teacher in North Carolina, Abdelrahman’s wondering how long her father’s new wife and her baby sister who are currently in Sudan will have problems reuniting with the rest of the family here in the United States.
“The last time he was in Sudan was this past September,” she said of her father, adding that the current circumstances make things a bit challenging. “The other day he was telling me that right now, things are in the hands of the U.S. Embassy over there in Sudan, in terms of her visa, but unfortunately, his wife can’t walk in there and ask what is up because she’s not American. However, if he were there, he could do that.
“My sister received her U.S. passport back in May,” she said. “I feel like the tweaks to the ban are good for people who already have visas to enter the country, but my dad’s wife doesn’t have her visa yet — so much for the American Dream.”
M.U.M. receives students from around 80 countries each year, and since the travel ban, school administration has been trying to keep a cool demeanor for its students’ sake.
“We don’t want to rush into any judgments too prematurely,” said Rod Eason, M.U.M.’s vice president of enrollment, management and marketing. “There is concern from our side, but be patient things are shifting all of the time with new policies and new directions.”
Although Eason is trying to even-handedly handle the issue, he said the school recently turned away an Iraqi student scheduled to arrive this term. MUM's hands were tied due to the travel ban, just like many other universities across the nation.
“It’s very unfortunate that this qualified man can’t come,” Eason said, adding that many of the school’s international students have expressed concerns.
“There are a lot of students asking questions,” Eason said. “They come from 80 different countries around the world, and some are saying it’s those countries [on the list] today, [my] country might be later.”
Eason said international students have been advised not to travel anytime soon.
“They can’t go home to visit family — even in the event of a family emergency,” he said. “We’re just doing our best to really nurture and support our students.”
Nancy Watkins, M.U.M.’s co-director of the Office of International Students and Scholars, chimed in saying that so many of the country’s technology companies depend on foreign workers, and that top tech firms, such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook spoke out against the ban.
“To disturb that flow takes a lot of expertise that many companies in many sectors thrive on,” she said.
According to an article today in the U.K.’s Daily Mail, 97 companies recently joined a legal brief arguing against Trump’s travel ban.
Watkins is also an attorney who specializes in immigration work, and she’s been keeping her finger on the pulse of what’s happening. She said that things are changing on a daily basis.
Since Friday, bans have been lifted on green card holders, those who have valid visas or dual citizenships.
More recently, US District Court Judge James Robart, of the Western District of Washington State suspended the ban, which will remain in place for the time being.
However, for Abdelrahman, the wait continues.
“We haven’t spoken in much detail about the ban itself,” she said of conversations with her father. “[It’s] more me just checking in on if he has heard anything yet. It’s tough; I feel for him, so I try not to ask too often or talk about it much.”