The international-student community remained unconvinced about unrestricted travel as President Trump’s revised executive order on immigrant travel was announced Monday.
The new order makes two changes relevant to international students. It removes Iraq from the travel ban, leaving six countries on the list — Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, and Libya — from entering the United States.
And it removes green card holders, or non-citizen permanent residents, from the ban, allowing them to travel without restriction in and out of the U.S.
“The new order signed today … [applies] only to foreign nationals outside the United States who do not have a valid visa,” said Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly. “It is important to note that nothing in this executive order effects current lawful permanent residents or persons with current authorization to enter our country.”
“If you have a current valid visa to travel, we welcome you,” Kelly wrote in a release from DHS.
After the first travel ban was issued on January 27, numerous students were stopped, detained or rejected at the border. While there are more than a million international students in the U.S., a number that has nearly doubled in the past decade, about 15,000 international students are affected by the travel ban.
Of those, 12,000 come from Iran, which is among the six countries that continues to be affected by the travel ban.
“As an Iranian, this order is going to cause many serious problems since I am also seeking a postdoctoral position here in U.S. and have already found a position in one of the best universities in my field,” said a Fulbright fellow at University of California-Davis.
“So now I have to choose from staying in U.S. like a prisoner and pursuing my research, or going back to visit my family. And then there is no guarantee to have a chance to come back and finish my studies,” the student wrote in an email. “The situation is completely unsure and all Iranian students are in doubt and under stress.”
Peter Asaad, an immigration attorney and partner at Quarles and Brady in Washington, advised that “although the Executive Order purportedly will not automatically invalidate current unexpired visas, individuals from the six countries should be advised to refrain from exiting the U.S. when possible.”
“And those outside the U.S. should seek to enter as soon as possible until there is greater clarity,” he said.
Notable universities have pushed back and announced that they will protect and assist their international students in freely traveling and continuing their academics.
“Regardless whether current and pending executive actions affect access to the U.S. for anyone from designated countries, [State University of New York at] Buffalo is a welcoming campus for students, faculty and visitors from across the globe, and is committed to remaining so,” President Satish K. Tripathi stated.
Eight universities filed papers in support of a federal lawsuit against the first travel ban on February 3. They included Boston College, Boston University, Brandeis University, Harvard College, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northeastern University, Tufts College and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
Following that, 17 universities filed legal papers February 13 against the first ban , calling it “serious and chilling” to international education. They included Brown, Columbia, Harvard, John Hopkins, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton, Stanford, Vanderbilt and Yale.
“The new travel ban will surely get litigated,” said Asaad. “The court will look at whether there is a rational basis for the travel ban which may again stop the president’s action under the same rationale as the Washington District Court’s nationwide ban.”
Students took to social media to air their opinions.
“There have been more deaths from vending machines falling over than from the nationals of 6 muslim-majority countries,” tweeted Ali Nasar, a student at the University of Texas-Dallas, in response to the latest executive order. He included a graphic showing more deaths by vending machine than terrorists in the U.S.
The U.S. green card is available to international students who show exceptional ability in the sciences, arts or business and who can certify that they have a job offer. The U.S. limits those EB-2 visas to 40,000 holders each year. Students may obtain a green card through family channels, as well, by being the spouse, minor child, married or unmarried son or daughter, or brother or sister of U.S. citizens who is 21 or older.
They may also be priority workers through an EB-1 visa if they have extraordinary abilities or are outstanding professors or researchers on a tenure track position.
“The new executive order affects lots of highly educated Iranians for research collaborations with U.S. universities. Right now, there are lot of Iranians working as university staff in U.S. and also a number of very talented Iranian students enter U.S. every year and pursue cutting edge researches without any security problems,” one Iranian student said.
In addition to green card holders, those excluded from the new restrictions are dual nationals using passports from unaffected countries; persons with valid U.S. visas or other travel documents; persons on diplomatic or similar passports; and persons who have been granted asylum in the U.S.
Consular officers may also make exceptions on a case-by-case basis for individuals with business, study or family connections to the United States. Individuals already in the United States are also excluded.
The new order includes a temporary halt to refugee admissions and approval for admissions for 120 days. Some exceptions are possible, but they are limited. The order also calls for refugee admissions for all of 2017 to be capped at 50,000. This could be called a “refugee cap” or “refugee limit.”
Last year, international students added $32.4 billion to the U.S. economy last year.