President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration and travel that was issued on Friday has been met with very public opposition and protests, both in the U.S. and around the world. The order has also sparked worry for many members of the International Affairs community at Texas Tech, both students and faculty.
The executive order Friday bars citizens of Syria, Yemen, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, and Iran from entering the United States for 90 days. The order also temporarily bans refugees from entering the United States and indefinitely bans Syrian nationals from entering the United States.
Texas Tech reported Monday that 149 of their students come from the seven countries listed on the travel ban. Three students who came from those countries spoke with EverythingLubbock.com Monday.
“My family is going to suffer from this, I am going to suffer from this,” explained Gheith Mehdawi, a Texas Tech junior. Mehdawi was born and raised in Libya, he came to the United States in 2010 and obtained his green card in 2013. He has already applied for citizenship, he is still waiting for a response.
In two weeks, Mehdawi was looking foward to his family visiting him in West Texas, they had already obtained their visas. But because of the executive order, his family can no longer visit.
“I haven’t seen my family in three years, especially my brother and my sister, I haven’t seen them maybe since 2012, I miss them and I want them to meet my son,” Medhawi said. He was looking forward to introducing his family to his infant son for the first time.
As a Petroleum Engineering student, he also planned to go to Brazil this summer for an internship opportunity. But now, he is not sure if he can go.
“It’s still scary, but it’s not definite. I still want to ask an immigration attorney, I want to make sure everything is right because no one knows, with Trump no one knows,” Mehdawi said.
Mehdawi worries that even if the executive order is removed, it may promote discrimination. He recalled times in 2009 and 2010 when he and his family members were detained for three to four hours in the airport when traveling to the U.S. from Libya. He worries that will happen again.
“Basically you’ll struggle in the airports and be a red flag for I don’t know how many years, even if they cancel the executive order,” he said.
“When the message that America sends to the world is that we are not compassionate towards those people in need… by purposely targeting a group, it not only hurts them but makes it easy for those we hurt to hate us,” Medhawi said. “Which I believe will lead to more security risks for the country.”
“Being that my family can no longer visit me, I am saddened that it may be a very long time until my parents have the chance to meet their grandchildren.” he said.
“I felt really really frustrated by the whole thing, a lot of families– their lives were torn apart by this ordinance by the stroke of a pen,” said Mousab Diab, a second year Texas Tech Medical School student. Diab was born in Sudan but came to the U.S. as a child with his family, obtaining green cards through the lottery system. After five years he and his family were able to become U.S. citizens.
“I do have one cousin who got the green card recently, and so he’s going through this whole situation, he works in the United Arab Emirates, but obviously with this whole new ban he might be impacted by it too,” Diab explained.
Diab was perplexed about the rationale behind the writing of this executive order.
“We are a nation built by immigrants. They add immense value to our economy and culture. Turning our backs to refugees contrasts to our long time standing as humanity’s safeguard,” he said. “Also detaining and deporting legal permanent residents and refugees who have already been vetted will not make America any safer; on the contrary it would only be setting up a very dangerous precedent against our very principles and values as Americans.”
Ambassador Tibor Nagy has spent three decades serving the U.S. government, much of that was spent serving as a U.S. ambassador in African countries. Nagy has been watching the reactions to this executive closely as the leader of International Affairs at Texas Tech.
Nagy entered the U.S. as a refugee himself, consequently he was concerned about the approach this order took.
“The administration obviously wants to do the right thing, it’s a worthwhile and laudable goal. But then I thought, banning refugees is not the way to go because refugees are the most scrutinized group of anybody coming over here,” Nagy explained. “My thought was those refugees often are waiting two plus years to be totally scrutinized just as much as anybody and if you want to come and do harm to the United States, you’re not going to sit in a refugee camp.”
Nagy also grew concerned because he realized this order would impact the International Affairs program at Texas Tech. Among other things, the International Affairs office supports international students and helps to coordinate study abroad opportunities.
Nagy noted that one Iranian Texas Tech scholar was unable to return to Texas Tech this week because of the executive order.
The former ambassador wonders about the negative psychological impacts this order will have on international students who come to the U.S.
“It will certainly sent a chilling message across all international categories,” he noted. “And looking at it again as a retired U.S. ambassador, I remember how often I spoke with my colleagues– that international students coming to the U.S. is one of the best ways to ensure the long term security of the United States of America.”
“For our universities to remain the leading universities in the world, we have to have the leading students, the leading researchers, the leading scholars, the leading faculty, that’s how our nation moves forward,” he said. “Part of that means people who come from overseas, and if that stops it would be extremely damaging for the Untied States of America.”
Texas Tech has advised students faculty or staff who hold a passport to any of the seven countries listed on the executive order to avoid international travel for the time being.
Texas Tech student Sara Alhaj, 21, is not sure about her status or her family’s status when it comes to traveling. Alhaj studies cell molecular biology she plans to go to Texas Tech medical school. She was born in the U.S. but was raised in Syria. At age 17 she left Syria with her family because of the war.
“Texas Tech has been great, there’s a very big community of internationals or even locals. They’re all very nice and supportive,” she said.
Though she’s happy to be learning in Lubbock, she can’t imagine not being able to visit Syria.
“My family are not American citizens, I don’t know what’s going to happen what’s going to happen with their applications for green cards,” she added.
“I have a brother who is on temporary protections status which is a protection they gave Syrians after the war so that they could stay here legally,” she said. “And I don’t know if they are going to renew that.”
Because Syrian refugees have been barred from entering the U.S. indefinitely, Alhaj is concered that the country where she grew up has been singled out
“Whenever Syrians or anyone are coming here, most of them are coming here to start over because their country did not provide that for them, because of any disaster that’s [in the country they came from] . That’s what I don’t understand, why the specific list?” she wondered of the list of countries on the executive order.
Alhaj noted the often cited statistic that of the deadly jihadist attacks in recent years on U.S. soil, none have been committed by citizens of Syria or the other six countries listed in the ban.
“We are all Americans, we all share the same values, we want a place where we can be safe,” she said.
All three Texas Tech students expressed fear because the lack of clarity on what the Trump administration might do next when it comes to immigration. All three hope the order will be removed or revised.