Immigration policy aftershocks hit Kent


The seven countries affected by the temporary travel ban implemented by the Trump administration on Jan. 27.

In the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s executive order to halt travel from seven countries for 90 days and refugee admission for 120 days, dissent has not only crept up in airports across the country — it has hit close to home for many at Kent State.

The order, which was signed last Friday, first barred all travelers from the affected countries, including those with valid green cards and visas. Since then, however, the green card ban has been relaxed.

Seven countries have been named in the ban: Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen. According to the CIA, these are countries in which the majority of citizens are Muslim.

Michael Taylor, a marketing and communications specialist in Kent State’s Office of Global Education, said as of Fall 2016, 75 international students at Kent State are from the countries listed in the order.

While the Trump administration insists the executive order has been put in place to ensure the safety of Americans, there are some who feel it does more harm than good.

Anthony Harris, a senior economics major, is a board member for both Kent State’s Muslim Student Association and Salaam Cleveland.

“They’re coming from Syria with a life very similar to yours, only a different language,” he said. “When you talk with these people, you see things that are very hard to explain. You see a whole wealth of emotion in one word sometimes. They’ll say something and you can see that they’re darting back through everything they’ve been through; from moments when they were fleeing gunfire, to moments where they were waiting for interviews to come through, to the moment they finally first step foot into this new land that they’re calling home.”

Donald Trump’s Travel Ban from on Vimeo.

Harris said Salaam Cleveland aims to help refugees from countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia, ease into their transition to the United States.

While helping refugees learn English, get placed with employers and obtain their driver’s license, Harris has heard the perspective of many fleeing violence.

Not all citizens from the seven countries have come to the U.S. seeking refuge from war. Some, like the international students at Kent State, are simply here for an education. Now, following the release of the executive order, many are unsure of their future at the university.

Ibrahim Albadri, a junior applied engineering major from Tripoli, Libya, is an F-1 visa holder. In addition to rocky communications with officials in his country, the details laid out in Friday’s order created additional worries for Albadri.

“Since my country is a mess, my money doesn’t get transferred that fast,” he said. “It takes (a) couple of months, so like this semester, if my money doesn’t arrive at March, I’ll probably get my classes dropped, and I can get a leave of absence.

With a leave of absence, Albadri said, an individual leaves the country for a semester and then returns. However, since there’s a ban, he said, “I wouldn’t come back. I wouldn’t apply for any visa to come back.”

Echoing President Beverly Warren’s statement made to the university community Sunday, Taylor said the university is advising those with student visas to stay in Kent for the time being in order to finish out the semester. In the meantime, the university is deciding its next steps in order to better help student visa holders.

“We’re getting calls and emails from (students from banned countries),” Taylor said. “We are going to be putting out an announcement — this is what we’ve been working with (University Communications and Marketing) about — to all the students and basically tell them that we’re going to be setting up some hotlines and things like that that help the students.”

The Office of Global Education is planning a support event for affected students in the KIVA, as well as setting up hotlines for help. As of Tuesday, however, nothing is set in stone.

“I’m sure some people are going to be in distress about this,” Taylor said. “We want to be able to provide them with accurate, helpful information (and) support them as we need to.”

Morteza Shakeri’s wife, Mansoureh Shasti, is a Ph.D student at Kent State. Currently out of the country, Shasti can’t resume her studies until she is allowed to re-enter the United States.

“My wife and I, we came to the United States about six years ago,” Shakeri said. “It was 2011, and she was a student. I was a student after her, so we just — we always have been in the United States. Not any travel outside of the country.”

Because of some family issues happening in Iran, Shakeri said, his wife and one-year-old daughter had to go to visit family around two months ago.

In order to go back to Iran, Shasti traveled to Canada to be granted a new visa. Now, it’s not certain if she can re-enter the country.

“If (the) executive order (is) going to be continued in that way, there is no chance for us,” Shakeri said.

Lama Abu-Amara, president of the Muslim Student Association, sees how the order is already affecting various MSA members; some of who are dual-citizens and natives of countries like Saudi Arabia, Palestine and Libya. She said while Trump had mentioned targeting the Muslim community throughout the campaign, seeing his words become a reality is surreal.

“The entire situation is unconstitutional,” Abu-Amara said. “It targets people based off of their religion, off of their nationality. It’s like a collective punishment … And now it’s kind of a lot more real and a lot more serious. I know that he’s mentioned the Muslim registry and so we’re kind of on edge on that. Because it means that there’s gonna be collective surveillance of an entire community.”

Citing the fact that no American citizens have been killed in the last 40 years from the seven countries listed in the order, Albadri didn’t understand Trump’s motive.

“Every person has a different way or a different opinion of how to fight, but I don’t know if his way is the most effective way,” Albadri said.  “He’s saying (the U.S. has) a plan to attack them, but I don’t know, what is the plan? He never described it. Banning seven countries that never attacked the U.S. or haven’t done any extremist acts? I don’t see that as a plan.”

Even those not personally affected by the ban in the Kent State community are reaching out through activism. History professor Richard Steigmann-Gall signed a petition for academics who oppose the order. He said he found the petition through social media.

“Regardless of our personal or family histories — whether we migrated here from the other side of the world, or were born and raised in Ohio — we are united by our love of the rule of law, the rights of the individual and due process. That’s what motivated me to oppose the ban,” he said.

Although he is not being personally affected, Steigmann-Gall maintained that this fact did not dampen his strong opposition. He feels that Trump should reverse the order.

“It’s already hurting the academic community more broadly, by keeping scholars, scientists and doctors out of the country whose talents would make this country a better place,” Steigmann-Gall said. “And whose talents earned them visas to do their work here. That process has already begun. That loss is already being felt.”

As TV2 reports, a Cleveland Clinic doctor has also been affected by the executive order:

0201_NC_PKG_Trump from on Vimeo.

For now, though, many are just waiting for what’s next.

“It’s so hard, you know? Especially when you have a child. It’s so hard that you cannot be here. We used to play together with my daughter, every night,” Shakeri said. “When this order says … (it) wants us to protect the United States from terrorists and from dangerous people, I agree with that. But … the students are not dangerous. The students are useful for this country.”

Cameron Gorman is a senior reporter, contact her at [email protected]. McKenzie Jean-Philippe is the diversity editor, contact her at [email protected]