Travel ban creates concern for UCR’s greater Middle Eastern community

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On Friday, Jan. 27, President Trump signed an executive order titled, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” which, for up to 90 days, bans non-U.S. citizens from Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Sudan, Iran, Syria and Iraq from entering the country and suspends the U.S.’ refugee program, in which individuals seeking asylum go through a screening process and are then relocated to an area in the U.S. for up to 120 days.

The order also includes a complete ban on refugees from Syria for an unspecified amount of time. It also sets to expand the Consular Fellows Program which will increase the number of fellows, whose job it is to adjudicate visas to applicants, lengthen the term of service and create a language training program for fellows that are being stationed outside of their linguistic capabilities.

There have been complaints from Republican lawmakers due to Trump’s lack of consultation with them prior to the order’s release. Many members of the party have voiced their disapproval of this action, such as senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who released a joint statement after the order was signed, stating, “Such a hasty move risks harmful results” and that they are concerned that this could have the opposite effect that Trump is hoping for.

During the weekend of the order’s implementation, the Transportation Security Administration detained approximately 109 people with officials now stating that everyone has been released. This conflicted with what Trump stated in the executive order, which states that the secretaries of Homeland Security and State could admit those that are a religious minority in their country and facing religious persecution or when an individual is already in transit to the U.S. and denying their admission would cause undue hardship.  

While these detentions were taking place, protests took place throughout the country at various airports, such as Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles and Washington Dulles Airport in Washington DC. Multiple lawsuits are also being filed by individuals and states against the White House.

The following Monday, Jan. 30, from 12 to 2 p.m., the Middle Eastern Student Center (MESC) and Muslim Student Association organized the “No Ban No Wall” protest at the Bell Tower against the travel ban and the creation of the wall along the southern U.S.-Mexico border.

With the issuing of this executive order, MESC has had many concerned students come in to speak with them. MESC Program Coordinator Natalie Haddad explained, “My students are really scared. It’s really concerning for me because I have students from Iran who are here either on a green card or a student visa and they are afraid that they are not going to be able to go back.” Haddad also criticized the disorganization of the previous weekend in which three Jordanian citizens were deported, saying, “This one guy came and he was visiting his brother and he had a visa that was approved by the U.S. They deported him back at the airport. They did not let him in past the airport.” There were also other cases in which former interpreters for the U.S. military were detained despite them being given visas. In other cases similar to that of the three Jordanian men, a woman from Saudi Arabia, a country not listed in the travel ban, was deported. This disorganization was due to few in the government being sure of what Trump meant. Officials within the administration were unsure of which countries were banned and ultimately, on Saturday, Jan. 28, a federal judge granted emergency stay for those that had already arrived and those in transit.  

When asked about their reaction to these protests, the White House did not comment.

In addition to the travel ban, the executive order also limits the number of refugees that are to be allowed into the U.S. for the 2017 fiscal year to only 50,000 with no refugees from Syria to be allowed.

A first-year neuroscience major, who asked not to be named, expressed his concern for the refugees coming from Syria saying, “I don’t see this kind of ban as really necessary. If you look at the Vietnam War, the U.S. was able to evacuate almost 120,000 Vietnamese people to Guam and get them registered in around four and a half months. If there is a way that they can put the refugees where they can be safe and just register them and get the United Nations on board with this so that they can make sure that this is fixed.”

In an effort to reassure members of the UC community, UC President Janet Napolitano and the chancellors of the UC system released a joint statement saying, “This executive order is contrary to the values we hold dear as leaders of the University of California (…) We are committed to supporting all members of the UC community who are impacted by this executive action.”

UCR Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox sent out a statement to UCR’s faculty, staff and students on Wednesday, Feb. 1, saying, “We must remain sensitive to the perspectives of others, while providing a safe and welcoming environment that encourages intellectual growth and spirited discussion.”

As of Friday, Feb. 3, district judge James Robart of Seattle, Washington granted a nationwide restraining order that temporarily halts the travel ban. The Department of Justice tried to appeal this decision and support the executive order but it was rejected by the appeals court.

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