Students and faculty react to Trump’s executive order

President Trump’s travel ban hits close to home for FAU International students.

Photo+courtesy+of+MB+O%27Malley+Prusher.

Photo courtesy of MB O'Malley Prusher.

Victoria Farrell, Contributing Writer

A week ago, President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning entry to the United States to all travelers from seven predominantly Muslim nations: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Libya. Hours later, there was chaos at major airports across America, including in South Florida.

His decision to put that into practice late last Friday has rattled Florida Atlantic students and faculty, including some who are directly affected by the policy and suddenly uncertain about their futures here in the U.S.

One graduate student from Syria, who asked to remain anonymous, said that other immediate family members currently here in the U.S. have decided to postpone planned travel indefinitely.

He came here to further his education, he says, and feels it’s insulting and hurtful to be lumped into a category of “bad” people, as Trump put it in a tweet Wednesday, in which he defended his executive order and dismissed debate on whether it counts as a “ban.”

“It affects me personally because it’s scary to tell people I am from Syria,” said the student, who left his country’s civil war in 2012. “You feel like you should avoid telling people that you are from Syria, especially uneducated people who have never seen a Syrian person. They only know what they hear from the news and they think, ‘They’re all scary, don’t deal with them, avoid them.’”

Mihaela N. Metianu, executive director of the Center for Global Engagement, said that 40 FAU students from the affected countries on Trump’s no-entry list have contacted her office in search of answers and support. Of those 40 students, 29 are from Iran, eight are from Iraq and three are from Syria.

Some of those students and faculty members came to the “Global Coffee Hour,” an event that was held to discuss the executive order over coffee and donuts. The event, which was held on Wednesday, was organized by Metianu’s office.

About 50 people came to the standing-room only event to discuss their worries over the new U.S entry restrictions and to ask questions about how this will affect them.

Many people in the room were faculty and staff of the university who, while not from the seven countries in question, were green card holders that were unsure if they would be able to re-enter the U.S. if they travel abroad.

“If you are from one of these [seven] countries my first recommendation is not to travel,” Aaron Blumberg, an immigration attorney with Fragomen Worldwide said. “If you leave you might have trouble getting back in.”

A cluster of anxious faces dominated the audience. Many raised hands, asking specific questions that sometimes elicited grim answers. A sense of concern filled the room, as worried students posed questions about their endangered futures in Trump’s America.

Blumberg also described what detainees go through, advising those present on how to handle themselves.

“If you’re put in secondary inspection, you go into a room. They may take your phone or computer and inspect it. They may or may not allow you to make a phone call. The officers may also be going through a lot of stress,” he explained. “Be very polite, be very humble, with the climate that we’re in right now, you don’t want to do anything to step on anyone’s toes.”

Many students are concerned that when their degrees are finished, so is their time in the U.S. For some, that means going back to a warzone, or to an oppressive regime suspicious of them for having lived in America.

Metianu said that students who want to stay in the country longer should consider applying to stay on for another degree.

“Start a second bachelor’s degree or a masters, just start a new degree,” Metianu said.

The situation is so stressful for some students that the school has reached out to them, as well as to the general student body, for tips on dealing with the gnawing uncertainty and non-stop news.

Dr. Blaise Amendolance, clinical director of Counseling and Psychological Services, said the counseling services department was starting support groups for people struggling with the current events. Reading the news, it seems, may have just become more stressful than studying for exams.

The executive director of the Peace, Justice and Human Rights Initiative at FAU, Steven Roper,  said that there had been an outpouring of concern among faculty and staff at FAU.

“We’re going to meet to discuss how activism among our staff can be channeled, and how we can be supportive of our students and wider community,” Roper said.

Currently, university officials, like the rest of America, are trying to clarify the details.

FAU President John Kelly penned a blog post this week about the ban with links for students to find information, adding that the school was “closely monitoring the situation.”

“The environment of diversity and inclusion we have cultivated across our six campuses is one of the most unique and wonderful aspects about FAU,” he wrote. “We stand together in celebration of our differences, and we value every member of our faculty, staff and student body.”

Victoria Farrell is a contributing writer with the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected]  or tweet her @VictoriaLFarrell.