The status of approximately 5,000 Iranian student visa holders are in jeopardy even several weeks after President Donald Trump’s Muslim travel ban was blocked by a federal court.
“Normally, Iranians get single-entry visas, but I received a multiple-entry one,” Somayeh Malekian, a Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism student, said.
Malekian, who hails from Iran, fears she may not see her parents during commencement ceremonies as she completes her 10-month program in late May.
“I was thinking that at the end of my program, I could go visit my family for a couple of weeks,” she said. “But now with this new ban — although it’s banned in the court of law — I won’t dare try to go back to Iran because who knows if the ban will return.”
Her only interaction with her parents includes frequent video-calls on Skype. However, prior to President Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20, Malekian never believed she would have to worry about not returning to the land she was born in.
“I have a big decision to make because I want to visit my mother,” she said. “I’m the only daughter in the family and she kind of needs me. If I want to stay, I think I’m very selfish because I’m only thinking about myself, but I really want to see her.”
On Feb. 9, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit blocked Trump’s executive order in favor of the public’s interest. While the ruling is temporary, Trump will be fighting back as the order could make its way to the Supreme Court.
Political science professor Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, who teaches at Northwestern University, is one of many education professionals who believe this specific ban is unfair.
“These new rules will empower hard-liners in Iran even as they alienate so many around the world who thought they knew what the U.S. stood for,” Shakman Hurd said. “In the long run, Americans will pay the price for treating others, who have done nothing wrong, so poorly by discriminating against them on the basis of nationality.”
Some Iranians, like Sara, who requested to not have her last name published for anonymity, are in favor of Trump’s temporary ban. While she comes from an Iranian Jewish background, she feels Iran had this coming.
“The Iranian government funds terror, and that’s a very bad thing,” she said. “If you’re doing it for other countries, you need to do it for Iran because it’s only for a short period of time.”
For some Iranian college students, such as Stony Brook University’s Diane Kermani, the ban hits home. Usually, she travels to Iran to see family every three years. Prior to the order, she was scheduled to fly into Iran this summer. However, that trip is now canceled.
“I think safety wise, they [Iranian refugees] are running away from the government because they want a better education in America,” Kermani said. “I’m scared to go back. I was born in America, but I have an Iranian passport. They’re going to cause problems when I get to JFK.”
However, there are some Muslim students who are taken aback by this executive order and their native country was not affected as part of the ban.
Another Stony Brook student, Hashim Kashif, is a Muslim from Pakistan. While he’s glad his country is not affected by the ban, he still believes this entire idea is a joke.
“Pakistan isn’t affected,” he said, “which I’m happy about. But it’s stupid how the seven banned countries have had no attacks on U.S. soil. The people who did 9/11 were from four other countries and have no travel restrictions.”