• Trump ban creates chaos for international university students

    By: JOHN ROGERS, Associated Press

    Updated:
    LOS ANGELES (AP) - From Dubai to Los Angeles, President Donald Trump's order barring travelers from seven Muslim countries from entering the U.S. has thrown the lives of thousands into limbo.

    Middle Eastern scholars who have been studying in the U.S., foreigners planning to visit loved ones living in this country, and others who were outside the United States when the order was issued last week are struggling to find a way in.

    Also, some legal U.S. residents and visitors from the affected nations are afraid to leave this country for business or family reasons, fearful they won't be allowed back in.

    International students and faculty teaching at colleges and universities around the Pittsburgh area are also affected by the ban. 

    Mustafa Muzafar is a third-year political science student at La Roche College in McCandless. He told Channel 11 that he's not sure what's next since his home county, Syria, is one of the seven listed.

    "Not concerned about myself, but about my family. Say something happens there, I'm not able to go there and visit them. So hopefully it will be better soon," Muzafar said.

    Channel 11 counted the number of students enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University and Carnegie Mellon University. Between all three universities, 115 from the seven countries were enrolled during the 2016 fall semester.  

    The Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education released the following statement about the immigration ban:

    “The Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education (PCHE) and its 10 member institutions -- Carlow University, Carnegie Mellon University, Chatham University, Community College of Allegheny County, Duquesne University, La Roche College, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, Point Park University, Robert Morris University and the University of Pittsburgh – recognize the importance of immigration policies that balance the security of the United States with the need to welcome those from around the world who positively impact our country, region and our institutions. 

    “Pittsburgh’s higher education community prides itself on being a national leader in innovation, research, and education. Our colleges and universities have attracted a multitude of talented individuals from across the globe, some of whom are from the seven nations whose citizens are currently banned from entering the United States. These students, staff and faculty have entered our country legally, complying with the existing vetting and visa requirements, which are already quite rigorous. We share significant concerns that the executive order will have negative consequences for our institutions locally and across the United States, diminishing their ability to compete as global leaders in higher education.

    “Our colleges and universities in the Pittsburgh region value the rich and diverse culture created by welcoming international students, staff and faculty, both within our respective institutions as well as throughout the broader community. In addition to the value these individuals contribute to our institutions, the higher education sector is a top employer for the region, which also will potentially experience the negative effects of this executive order. The immediate ramifications of the ban of current visa and green card holders are clearly evident on our campuses and in our communities, and we respectfully ask the administration to reconsider this policy.”

    Duquesne University President Ken Gormley released the following statement regarding the executive order. 

    Dear members of the Duquesne community,
     
    As a university founded by priests from distant countries, dedicated to educating immigrant Pittsburgh steel mill workers and their families, Duquesne has always embraced diversity and has valued the significant contributions immigrants have made to our society. Indeed, our campus community has consistently been enriched by students, faculty and community members from foreign nations. Their achievements in research, medicine, technology, law and education not only have benefited Duquesne University since its founding, but they have also strengthened the region, the nation and the world.
     
    Recent actions by the executive branch raise serious questions that go to the heart of Duquesne's core principles and mission, and prompt me to write this letter.
     
    As you are aware, this weekend, the president signed an executive order that immediately impacts individuals from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and Somalia. The details are still evolving; there appear to be ongoing discussions among agencies tasked with enforcing the order. However, refugees, migrants and individuals with visas and green cards (who are legally permitted to study, work and live in the United States with their families) are most at risk of being adversely affected. This may include Duquesne students, faculty, staff members and their families. Although several judicial rulings have blocked the order's enforcement, the ultimate resolution is still uncertain.
     
    Along with others across the country in the academic and higher education communities, and those committed to advancing social justice world-wide, we express deep concern regarding this executive order. As a Catholic, Spiritan institution with a long history of supporting the needs of the underserved including refugees and immigrants - not just in Pittsburgh but within our global community - we support a reasonable approach to immigration that is not based upon fear or hate, does not discriminate and does not cause harm to individuals, families or employers.
     
    Within our own campus community, we can and should engage in respectful, thoughtful dialogue on these critical issues. In this spirit, I encourage you to join me for a campus-wide discussion on Monday, February 13, at 3 p.m. in the Power Center Ballroom, entitled "Race and Cultural Understanding in a New Era." Among the topics discussed at this special forum will be a segment on "Muslims, Immigration, and the American Dream."
     
    We are hopeful that this event - the first in a series on civil discourse - will provide an opportunity to come together to address difficult issues confronting our nation and our own university community.
     
    In the meantime, if you have concerns regarding your own status - or that of a family member - in light of the recent executive order, please contact Dr. Joseph DeCrosta, Director of International Programs, at decrosta@duq.edu; Dr. DeCrosta can refer you to the appropriate person who can provide assistance.
     
    Together, we will remain committed to our longstanding tradition of working hard to advance social justice and diversity, as part of our broader commitment to furthering God's creation by respecting the individuality and worth of each individual human being, whether born in the United States or elsewhere.

    Meanwhile, attorneys and federal judges are working to clear a path for some of those who were turned away.

    One was Sahar Algonaimi, a Syrian-born schoolteacher from Saudi Arabia, who arrived at Chicago's O'Hare Airport on Saturday on her way to Indiana to care for her elderly, cancer-stricken mother.

    Although she had a visa and had visited the U.S. numerous times before, the 58-year-old woman was put on a plane back to Saudi Arabia after authorities persuaded her to give up her visa. An hour after she left, a judge blocked Trump's order, an act her family's attorney said would have allowed her to stay.

    "Now, unless we can get the government to give her humanitarian parole, she will have to apply for a new visa," Kalman Resnick said Monday. "This is just one of many stories from the weekend at O'Hare and all around the country."

    In Dubai, Nazanin Zinouri of South Carolina said she was barred from boarding a flight home over the weekend after traveling to Iran to visit her mother and other family members.

    A legal resident of the U.S. since 2010, she has earned master's and doctorate degrees in this country and works for a technology company. She fears she will lose her job, home, car and pet if she can't return soon.

    "What's going to happen to my dog? My dog is sick. Is anyone going to adopt him?" she asked. "Am I going to lose my job forever?"

    On Sunday, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said green card holders, or legal permanent U.S. residents, will be allowed to re-enter the country unless there is information indicating the person is a serious threat.

    Trump denied his order was to blame for chaos at the nation's airports over the weekend, instead pointing to computer glitches and protesters. He took to Twitter to argue that swift action on immigrants was important, saying there are a "lot of bad 'dudes' out there."

    The president issued a 90-day ban on travelers from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. He also suspended the admission of all refugees for 120 days and indefinitely barred refugees from Syria.

    Although thousands protested the order in airport demonstrations around the country and civil rights groups and some members of Congress denounced it, Trump supporters say it is needed to safeguard the country.

    "We need to know who these people are," said retired firefighter Charles Lewis of Topeka, Kansas. "I just don't think this nation is secure. We're a day late and a dollar short on everything."

    Among those kept out of the country was a California man's 12-year-old daughter, who was born in Yemen.

    Ahmed Ali, a 38-year-old manager of a market in Los Banos, said he had been trying to get a visa for his daughter Eman for five years, and she was finally issued one last Thursday. He had planned to take her to the U.S. on Saturday, but she was barred from boarding a flight in the African country of Djibouti.

    "It is racist," he said of the executive order. "We are being targeted for our nationality and religion."

    Ali, his wife and their two older children are U.S. citizens.

    Also barred from returning is Khaled Almilaji, a Syrian doctor who has been attending Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, on a scholarship while he studies ways to rebuild his country's health system. He said that his pregnant wife remains in the United States.

    "It is really sad where the world is going to," said Almilaji, who risked his life to provide medical care during Syria's civil war and coordinated a campaign that vaccinated 1.4 million Syrian children.

    ___

    Associated Press Writers Deepti Hajela in New York; Amanda Lee Myers in Los Angeles; Jennifer McDermott in Providence, Rhode Island; John Hanna in Topeka, Kansas; and Martha Waggoner in Raleigh, North Carolina, contributed to this story.

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