On January 27, 2017, exactly a week after the United States has inaugurated a new president of the United States, President Donald Trump signed the Executive Order 13769 or the Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States. The media would call it Trump’s immigration ban. This order has barred people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States; namely: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days. It also bans all refugees for 120 days and Syrian refugees indefinitely. Visitors and workers from these countries were barred and it also revoked more than 100,000 visas for foreigners inside and outside the United States. The immigration ban also greatly affected students, who were enrolled in American institutions during the 2015-16. The students from those mentioned Muslim countries were mostly affected. As a response, certain industrial companies reacted and university and college administrators also issued the statements regarding the issue.
In January 30, the president of George Mason University (GMU), Angel Cabrera issued her statement that reflected the voice of the whole GMU Campus regarding the immigration ban ordered by President Trump. President Cabrera said that he is deeply concerned with the new executive order. He mentioned how the university has reached out to the immigrant students from those mentioned countries and asked them to “exercise caution and restrict travel outside of the U.S” (Cabrera, 2017). Although this statement of the university president may mirror the sentiments of everyone in George Mason, this paper further explores the attitude of the GMU employees and students regarding Trump’s immigration ban. The paper also cites important news articles collected during the research process to relate them with the views, thoughts, and feelings of the people around the university.
In March 4, CNN reported about a case of Daniela Vargas in Mississippi. Vargas, a 22-year-old undocumented citizen, was detained following her media appearance and news conference. Vargas joined her brother and father as they also illegally overstayed after their coverage for the Visa waiver program expired. Vargas first came to the US when she was only 7 and since became part of the Visa waiver program. With Trump’s immigration ban, however, Vargas and her family are facing deportation without even having the chance to a court hearing. The Vargas family hailed from Argentina. Vargas’ mother is hiding for fear of her identity as well.
This pressing issue regarding immigrants who do not even make it to court to rest their case is considerably concerning. Students of GMU, especially those coming from the different countries expressed their anxieties regarding the issue. One student interviewed said that he fears that he could experience the same fate as Vargas. Only about 15% of the roughly 400,000 people who are removed from the United States each year ever go before a judge, according to Greg Chen, advocacy director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (Shoichet, 2017). The vastness of this occurrence is disturbing for international students, especially those who are staying in the country under the Visa waiver program and whose coverage is about to expire.
Dreamers like Vargas and international students who are studying in GMU may share the same sentiments of fear and anxieties regarding their case about deportation. These are young individuals who came to the US to seek better opportunities. Trump’s immigration ban may have construed that those who do not necessarily want to harm the country and are not involved in terrorism can still face the deportation, when in fact, the ban was intended for those who have terroristic intentions.
Compromise appears to be the key on the struggles of interpretation for Trump’s immigration ban. In March 1, days prior to the arrest of the 22-year old Daniela Vargas, Trump told reporters that he could reform a bill that would grant legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants living in the US. The President is eager to pass a compromise immigration bill in his first term that would stop short of granting a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, but would allow undocumented immigrants who aren’t serious or violent criminals to live, work and pay taxes in the US without fear of deportation (Tapper, Blitzer, & Kopan, 2017). Trump also cited about this compromise during the Joint Session of Congress, when he said that there has to be a focus on how the immigrants are contributing positively to the country’s economy and security.
This compromise that Trump wants to offer lifted the spirits of the international students in GMU. This statement coming from Trump proved that the president still has this concern for immigrants who do not have any intentions to harm the country. The students were pleased, but the anxieties remain. They admitted that they are still unsure regarding their status and they have questions concerning their studies and their stay in the country.
The offices of GMU, however, expressed their support to students who would need assistance. The president of GMU cited that the Office of International Programs and Services is willing to provide support needed regarding matters of immigration. The office extends help both to students and to the staff of the GMU. The assistance provided by the office gives hope to students and the staff. They are positive that they can manage the arrangements of staying in the US. They also expressed optimism through the information provided to them by the university.
Effective by the numbers
The article from CNN on March 15 cited a comparison between the new immigration ban with the old one, and how it influences the people from other countries come to US. The article cited that Trump’s campaign against illegal immigration could potentially 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US. However, Trump has signaled a willingness to respect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program that Obama started to offer legal status to people who came to the US as children and still live there (Watkins & Tseng, 2015). The article added that Trump’s new policy discouraged the immigrants who were willing to the risks anything just to cross the border in the Southwest. The 40% decrease of the number of border crossers in February appeared to create effectiveness of Trump’s immigration policy.
Immigration ban implications
The implications of the immigration ban in the United States can be evident through not only through the immigrants but also from the other countries. In the news article of CNN dated March 30 citing that Trump has been trying to warm the relationship between the US and Russia, the authors indicated that Trump’s efforts initiated since the campaign period. However, the current conditions of the immigration ban led to some hopes going to blur for US to have open negotiations with Russia. This should help prove the implications of the immigration ban. Trump said that he wanted to make peace with Russia and open the country to such possibility of working with them. However, the indefinite travel ban for refugees from Syria made this statement contradictory. The same sentiments can be gathered from the immigrant students and employees of GMU. The inconsistence affects them in a way that they remain unsure of what lies ahead while they are here in the US.
The George Mason University has enrollees and faculty and staff who migrated to the United States. The recent issuance of the White Executive Order on January 27 greatly affected these individuals. Primarily, the reactions include anxieties and fear. Immigrant students fear that they would be instantly deported, especially those who are seven major countries affected by the immigration ban. The students also said that they fear for the situations of their families, which was similar with the student from Mississippi named Daniela Vargas. The faculty and staff expressed similar sentiments, but they are more optimistic especially that the university provides enough assistance and information. The statements issued by the university student and that of the Provost and Vice President boosted the confidence of immigrants who belonged to this university. They are also aware of the implications of President Trump’s immigration policy. While they fear for the inconsistency, they remain hopeful to the compromise that even Trump said in a statement. He cited that the government can draft a policy that would allow those who have non-terroristic intentions to stay in the country given certain conditions. The GMU truly value diversity; and it is more important than ever during these days to work together in helping one another. The hopes expressed by the immigrant interviewed for this paper were immense. The way that they can hold to this hope is vital for GMU as well. The positive environment that the university promotes reflected to this hope. Without it, the immigrant students and staff could remain to live in fear. It is certain that the university will not allow it. In the coming days, collaboration remains essential so that the university can thrive along with its diverse community of students, faculty, and staff.
Cabrera, A. (2017). : Message from President Ángel Cabrera. Retrieved 29 April 2017 from http://oips.gmu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Message-from-President-Angel-Cabrera.pdf
Tapper, J., Blitzer, W. & Kopan, T. (2017). Trump envisions bill allowing many immigrants to stay in US. CNN. Retrieved 29 April 2017 from http://edition.cnn.com/2017/02/28/politics/trump-immigration-bill/index.html
Shoichet, S. (2017). Can immigrants be deported without a court hearing? CNN. Retrieved 29 April 2017 from http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/03/politics/deportations-without-court-hearings/index.html
Watkins, E. & Tseng, J. Trump’s policies and how they’ll change America — in charts. CNN. Retrieved 29 April 2017 from http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/14/politics/donald-trump-policy-numbers-impact/index.html