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March 13, 2017 | by  | in News |
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International Students affected by Travel Ban

On March 6, President Trump signed a revised executive order that reinstates the controversial travel ban of January 27. However, the revised order includes six countries; Iraq is excluded from the list. This piece was written before the March 6 announcement, but the concerns it raises about the original order are just as pertinent.


On January 27, President of the United States Donald J. Trump issued an executive order barring travel from seven Muslim-majority countries designated as “terror prone.” Almost immediately, arrests were issued for Muslim travelers, protests began breaking out at major airports, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed lawsuits against the president’s order for unlawful detainment.

Over six days, the ban was actively enforced, affecting permanent residents and incoming refugees from Syria who had previously been cleared to begin life in their new home.

International students aiming to further their education in the US were left in a state of limbo.

Over 23,000 students from the seven affected countries were hosted by US academic institutions in 2015, and in response to Trump’s executive order, these institutions have advised students not to leave the country lest they lose access to their education.

“Our students are wonderful for America,” Jonathan Starr, the former principal of a Somali school with affected students, remarked. “They’ll be educating their population and developing industry using American know-how. A developed Somaliland and Somalia is good for America and its safety.”

If the ban had been implemented, it was estimated to have a net cost of $700 million in revenue per year for US colleges which, in 2015, hosted over 23,000 students from the seven countries.

US academics have already stood against the executive order, claiming that the ban’s impact on graduate students from countries like Iran will have a dire effect on the development of scientific research in North America.

The order’s more sinister undertone is that it will set the standard for many people’s understandings of students of refugee and immigrant backgrounds, especially those with Muslim backgrounds. Zarina Ahmed, a Somali student in her third year of a conjoint degree in International Relations and Development Studies at VUW, raised concerns that these toxic sentiments may have a flow-on effect. She stated that the rhetoric of the order could “create further social consequences by alienating Somali New Zealanders who consider themselves Kiwi but are treated as other.”

By distinguishing seven Muslim-majority nations as terror threats, despite no attacks on the US in the past 40 years by nationals from these countries, Muslims are implied to be in and of themselves a threat to society. Refugees form the building blocks of some of the developed world’s most robust and industrious communities, with studies from Europe and Australia demonstrating that migrants are a net economic benefit for society as a whole. Additionally, Muslim immigrants contribute to New Zealand’s, and the world’s, distinct cultural tapestry with their contributions to the arts and media.

The executive order was initially blocked by federal judge James Robart of the Washington District Court on February 3, which barred state officials from enforcing the order. After the decision was challenged by the executive government, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld the Court’s decision, stating that it was not convinced that the US government has “shown a likelihood of success on the merits of its appeal.”

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