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Old wine in new bottle? International students still fear impact of Trump’s new travel ban

(File) New York City high school students demonstrate against US President Donald Trump's immigration policies after walking out of classes in lower Manhattan, New York, US, Feb 7, 2017. Pic: Reuters/Mike Segar

US President Donald Trump’s updated travel ban on citizens of certain Muslim-majority countries is doing little to reassure international students, despite being positively received by those critical of the earlier version.

On Monday, Trump signed a revised executive order that now bans citizens of six Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, without existing valid visas. Compared to the earlier popularly known “Muslim Ban”, those from Iraq, as well as long-term US residents and dual-citizens, will no longer be affected.

But for international students already in the US and those planning to join the country’s schools, the new order still leaves many aspects in the dark, such as its implementation and the fine print of the order, such as the “hardship relief” clause.

According to Dennis Galvan, University of Oregon‘s (UO) vice provost for International Affairs, one unclear area is the degree of discretion given to the US Customs and Border Protection when deciding on a case-to-case basis whether to waive the restriction placed on citizens from the list of banned countries.

Galvan adds that the ban has caused a “chilling effect” on his university’s admissions, as many top students across the globe are avoiding going to university in “what appears to be an isolationist, unwelcoming country”.

“At the end of the day, this is still sending a message to talented people that they aren’t welcome here,” Galvan said to The Register Guard.

For Zoheir Khademian, an Iranian PhD student at the Colorado School of Mines, the ban is taking a toll on his study of earthquakes at the university.

Although the school has been “really supportive” by talking to him, Zoheir is worried about the ban’s effect on his wife who is now in Iran, but who has applied for a visa to join him in the US. With the ban in place, her application is now in limbo.

“It’s been eight months, I couldn’t focus on what I’m doing. And I’ve done my best to do what I’m supposed to do but it’s not easy to focus at this point. I asked her to come here so we can build our lives in a better environment in terms of academia, in terms of scientific environment. I owe her. It’s not fair to leave her alone over there and I’m here,” Zoheir told CBS Local.

(File) A protester holds a sign as during a protest by New York City students against Trump in Lower Manhattan, New York, US, Feb 7, 2017. Pic: Reuters/Mike Segar

Under the new ban, applicants from the list of banned countries such as Zoheir’s wife, may be considered for a waiver of the travel restriction if they fall into one of nine specific examples of circumstances provided. One of the situations listed is if “the denial of entry during the suspension period would cause undue hardship”.

Zoheir laments the lack of further details on this clause, saying: “Is there any logical way to show this is hardship? It’s not clear what hardship means.”

“I don’t want to live in an unknown situation. Just tell me she’s going to come in four months, in eight months, nine months, give me a number,” he said.

‘Un-American’

Another student unhappy with the ban, revised or otherwise, is Michael Deldjoubar, a senior is Salisbury University whose family hails from Iran. Michael’s Italian-born cousin now has trouble getting a visa to the US since Trump has taken office.

“She’s more Italian than anything, yet she was trying to get a visa and it was proving very difficult for her to come from Italy because she had been to Iran like three of four years ago,” Michael told WMDT.com.

Michael’s schoolmate Maya Tariq, whose father is from Pakistan, pointed out that immigrants like her father come to the US for a better life. Speaking to WMDT.com, Maya called the travel ban “un-American”, a term echoed by other students who were with her.

“Other countries in the Middle East are not as free as America is, so he just came over here to practice his freedom of speech and freedom of religion,” Maya said.

Zoheir echoed Maya’s sentiments, saying he and other international students were in the US to contribute and not to pose security threats.

“We are not dangerous. We are assets. Concentrating on research is not easy when you have such a thing in your mind,” Zoheir said.

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