There are no words in any language on this Earth or any other planet that can fully express my disgust over what is unfolding before my very eyes. Donald Trump (you will never, EVER hear me refer to him by the title he does not deserve to bear) has enacted an executive order that bans visa-holders from seven Islamic countries from entering the United States. Those countries include Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Libya. Was I the only one that noticed that the Muslim-majority nations that hold significant strategic interest for the U.S. were not included on this list, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey? Or that no fatal terrorist attacks in the U.S. have been committed by nationals of these countries since 1975?
Green-card holders are also affected by this order, meaning that if you have been living in the U.S. for years as a legitimate permanent resident, you could also be subjected to this gross injustice if you were traveling abroad during the time the executive order was signed. Citizens from these seven nations who hold dual-nationality with another country, like Great Britain, are also included in the ban. The only good thing I can say is that the ban does not affect dual-citizens like my fiancé who hold both American citizenship and citizenship from one of the blacklisted countries.
As an American who has devoted my studies and professional life to the Middle East, I am utterly appalled and flabbergasted. Already my incredulity was being tested by Trump’s executive orders to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, build the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, and ban international counseling on abortion. But this most recent order regarding Muslims and refugees provokes the most outrage for me, because it has the potential to affect so many Arab and other Middle Eastern colleagues I know.
Just today Indiana University Bloomington, a university well-known for its specialization in Middle Eastern and Central Asian languages, issued this letter to all its international study body:
As you may be aware, the U.S. president signed an executive order yesterday that will impact visa processing abroad for international students and scholars. In sum, the following directives have been issued:
For all international students and scholars:
Visa interview waiver program: The U.S. has suspended the visa interview waiver program. This means that if you will be traveling outside of the U.S. and need to apply for a new visa to return, you should allow plenty of time for visa processing as interview wait times are expected to increase significantly. You can review the appointment and processing times at the Department of State’s website.
For citizens of Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen:
Ban on entry to the U.S.: The executive order bans entry for at least 90 days for nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. If you are from one of these countries, you can stay in the U.S. provided you maintain your current visa status.
Travel outside the U.S.: We strongly recommend that you not travel to any country outside of the U.S. at this time. If you do, you will not be able to reenter the country, at least until the ban on entry to the U.S. is lifted.
Please know that Indiana University does not share the sentiments expressed by these executive orders. We have long recognized the absolute necessity of a diverse and inclusive community to an excellent education. Each of you, regardless of your background or country of origin, are welcome in our community. You bring perspectives and experiences that, taken together, enrich the educational experience and prepare our students to thrive in the 21st century. Our student body expresses who we are as a community and reflects our foundational commitment to inclusion and diversity.
We understand that the directives contained in the executive order may be very unsettling to you, and that they may interfere with travel plans or commitments you have for the near future. All of us in the Office of International Services will do everything we can to assist and support you during this period of uncertainty…
Christopher J. Viers, Ph.D.
Associate Vice President
for International Services
It is a sad state of affairs when American universities have to step in and provide words of comfort to international students due to the actions of the country’s very own leader. David Boren, president of the University of Oklahoma, issued a similar letter of sympathy when Trump won the election back in November.
Trump represents nothing of the American values of religious tolerance, diversity, or global camaraderie that many of us grew up with, so civil society members like universities and other organizations will have to carry the touch for the next four years, if not longer.
I am reasonably hopeful that this ban will spark enough outrage that it will not exceed its declared lifespan of 90 days. A lawsuit has already been filed on behalf of two Iraqi visa-holders who were detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. Hundreds of lawyers have now volunteered their services to the Urban Justice Center’s International Refugee Assistance Project in response to the ridiculous ban. There will be far too much blowback for Trump to resume this outrageous and illegal policy indefinitely.
However, by doing this, Trump is cleverly testing the waters to see what he can and cannot get away with. If the visa ban served his interests, he would extend it. If not, then he could let the ban expire and still claim he did what he promised to do during the campaign. He’s working to safeguard his own image and interests with no regard whatsoever to the thousands of lives this visa ban negatively impacts.