South Carolina, United StatesFeb 13, 2017, 06.57 AM
Shortly after his arrival in the Oval Office, President Trump rushed into fulfilling one of his most controversial campaign promises: the Muslim Ban. On January 27, he signed an executive order that suspended the citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries—Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia—with any type of visa from entering the United States.
The details of the travel ban were not immediately and, perhaps intentionally, clear but the ban unilaterally barred all passport-holders of the seven countries from entering the United States for a period of 90 days and suspends the United States Refugee program for a period of 120 days. The administration excluded legal permanent residents—Green Card holders —and dual-citizens from the ban later.
The president argued that the ban will “keep radical Islamic terrorists out of US” and that an “extreme vetting” system needs to be implemented. Since the issuance of the ban, various organisations and individuals have filed legal lawsuits against the president and denounced the executive order as unconstitutional and discriminatory.
On January 27, Trump signed an executive order, suspending citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States (WION)
The most recent legal ruling came from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal on February 9, when a three-judge panel unanimously voted in favor of a Seattle federal’s earlier restraining order which had temporarily halted the travel ban. President Trump, disappointed with the ruling, furiously Tweeted “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!”
The appeal court’s refusal to reinstate the travel ban is a major blow to the administration, but President Trump can—and is apparently planning to—enforce a new series of travel restrictions while keeping his option to appeal to the Supreme Court on the table.
Since the public announcement of the executive order, there has been a wave of public protests and demonstrations nationally and internationally.
On February 9, academics participated in a nation-wide rally, called “Academics United” to condemn the travel ban and to show their solidarity with those who have been affected by the executive order. Located in the capital city of a southern red state, University of South Carolina (USC) was among the many universities that participated in the peaceful rally.
Academics participated in a nation-wide rally to condemn the travel ban and show solidarity with those who have been affected by the ban (WION)
USC had 1,445 international students enrolled in the fall of 2015, representing 4.27 per cent of the total campus enrollment (33,709). Of the seven countries listed in the ban, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Syria represented 60, 51, 5 and 1 students respectively, while no student from Yemen, Sudan or Somalia was enrolled during the same period at USC. Compared to the demographic composition of international students at USC, however, Iran has a much larger share at the national level.
While the number of international students on American campuses topped 1 million for the first time in history in the academic year 2015/2016, Iran was the only country listed in the travel ban among the first 25 leading places of origin (ranked 11th), with more than 12,000 students, surpassing countries such as United Kingdom (12th), Turkey (13th), Germany (15th), France (18th) and Indonesia (19th)- the largest Muslim population country in the world.
Iran was the only country listed in the travel ban among the first 25 leading places of origin (ranked 11th), with more than 12,000 students, surpassing countries such as United Kingdom (12th), Turkey (13th), Germany (15th), France (18th) and Indonesia (19th)- the largest Muslim population country in the world
In addition to the approval of the gathering, USC had issued a carefully-worded statement on the travel ban earlier. Although USC —unlike its more liberal counterparts —did not explicitly challenge the travel ban in its statement, but it voiced university’s belief in “international exchange” and cultural diversity. The University President Harris Pastides, too, had reacted to the travel ban in a Tweet on January 29: “We value int'l students, faculty & staff and are committed to their safety and success regardless of religion, ethnicity or nat'l origin.”
On the day of the rally, a culturally-diverse group of about seventy students, post-docs, professors and university officials gathered on the campus of the university at noon. Debbie Billings, an adjunct associate professor at the Department of Maternal and Child Health, welcomed the crowd, among whom was a doctoral Iraqi student, holding a sign that read “fight ignorance, not immigrants.” “This is not the way we treat our brothers and sisters from around the world. This world is a rich place that is filled with diversity that is beautiful and it needs to be honored and respected”, Billings said.
Another university official and professor, Dr. Hossein Haj-Hariri— an Iranian-born American citizen and the Dean of College of Engineering and Computing at USC, in his short speech said: “I do not minimize the depth of homesickness feelings that may come over you at times, but keep in mind that as much as your family will miss you too as does miss you, they are even more vested in your success than you are, so stay the course and continue to excelling your studies and academic pursuits and the university remains committed to your well-being and success”. Dr. John H. Dozeir, USC’s Chief Diversity Officer, too, attended the gathering to voice his support for those who were affected by the ban.
Since the issuance of the ban, various organisations and individuals have filed legal lawsuits against the US president (WION)
Others shared their personal stories. Vahid Tavaf—an Iranian doctoral student —said, “How can I explain to my son that his grandparents were not at his birth?” Tavaf and his wife are expecting their first child in May. Tavaf’s parents were planning to travel to the U.S. to visit them and help them with the baby. They had scheduled a visa appointment at the Embassy of the United States in Dubai—since the United States does not have an embassy in Iran—but the embassy canceled their visa appointment shortly after the release of the Executive Order.
Tavaf’s parents had planned their trip months in advance because Iranian applicants go through a lengthy vetting process before they receive their visas—a process that often takes up to several months, which makes us wonder what extra vetting process President Trump has in mind.
Not only the travel ban bars individuals from coming into the U.S., it also strands those who are already in the country. The ban virtually deprives all citizens of the seven countries residing in the U.S. to travel abroad; whether to visit their families or to attend professional opportunities such as seminars, conferences or workshops. The victims of the sweeping travel ban, however, are not confined to academics, and include a constellation of people ranging from a four-month-old Iranian infant with a heart defect in need of surgery in Oregon to an Oscar-nominated Iranian director who is invited to attend the 89th Academy Awards ceremony.
In a post-rally remark, Samuel King—a PhD candidate in History at USC and one of the many Americans who were in the gathering—expressed his deep-seated frustration with the ban: “I'm fiercely opposed to the Muslim ban (and I use that phrase deliberately) because it is patently obvious that it is motivated by Islamophobia and not by any rational idea of how to prevent terrorist attacks in the United States.”
CNN released a statistical report recently which showed no “refugees from countries included in the travel ban have killed anyone in terrorist attacks on American soil.” The report also calculated that the chance of dying in an attack by a foreign-born terrorist is 0.00003%; far less likely compared to the chance of getting killed by guns or dying in a car accident.
The concluding statement of the USC rally featured a poem from the great thirteen-century Persian poet, Saadi: