International students expressed concern over leaving the United States and said they feel neglected by the U.S. government as a result of the recent executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Farshad Abdollah-nia, a doctoral candidate studying physics, said the recent news of the travel ban has left him feeling like he is unwanted in the United States.
“When you lose your rights as certain citizens and you get this false attack by the government, it’s like you are becoming a second-class citizen,” Abdollah-nia said. “You don’t have some rights and you’re being negatively portrayed by the very country you are living in. It’s going to make it a not very comfortable place to live.”
According to Abdollah-nia, many international students choose to stay in the United States instead of visiting their home countries because they risk losing their U.S. visas.
“I haven’t seen my family in six years because even before (the executive order), getting the visa was not certain,” Abdollah-nia said. “Previously, it was a risk for me to go … but right now it’s an even harder choice. In the past past, I was unsure if I could return. Right now, I know that I can’t return.”
The Office of International Student and Scholar Services was unable to comment on the situation at this time, but Student Legal Services is planning to offer services.
Kathleen Harward, the director of Student Legal Services, says the offices will be offering advisements from immigration attorneys.
“We are doing our best to get the advisements lined up and ask for students’ patience,” Harward said in a statement to the Collegian. “We also encourage students to talk with Student Legal Services attorneys about steps they may take to prepare for contingencies.”
Harward says students can contact Student Legal Services to request an attorney, and the advisements will be at no charge to the student for the next several months. Harward says the office is planning to begin offering advisements near the end of February.
President Tony Frank has expressed support for international students, particularly the the three students impacted by President Donald Trump’s travel ban. Frank hosted an open forum Jan. 31 on the topic. Abdollah-nia attended Frank’s forum to express his concerns about the travel ban.
A representative for Frank could not be contacted, but Frank released a statement to all students and faculty about the ban.
In his statement, Frank said the university will continue to monitor the situation closely.
“Advocating for our students is a privilege we inherit from those who built this university,” Frank wrote. “a role in which we take great pride, and a responsibility from which we shall not turn away despite the complexity of any situation that may face us.”
Elaheh Alizadeh, a Ph. D candidate studying chemical and biological engineering, expressed in a letter intended for Frank that the executive order will not solve the issue of terrorism.
“I, myself, care about safety of this country too,” Alizadeh wrote. “I totally understand those who support this executive order. However, I am confident that the approach that this executive order takes to achieve its goal is not effective at all. If this order had become a law 20 years ago, it wouldn’t have stopped any of the terrorist attacks.”
Although the travel ban has increased the difficulty of international students ability to travel, most were often denied before the order was signed. Abdollah-nia shared stories of other students he knew who were unable to get visas prior to the executive order being signed. According to Abdollah-nia, a graduate student was rejected for a visa and could not return to complete his Ph. D in civil engineering after returning home to attend a memorial service for his father.
“When you leave without knowing that you won’t come back … it’s really heartbreaking,” Abdollah-nia said. “Many of us just don’t risk it. It doesn’t have anything to do with this particular executive order, but this has been the situation even in the past.”
Abdollah-nia feels the executive order insults his efforts at CSU. He taught at CSU as a graduate teaching assistant for five years and estimates that he has taught at least a thousand students.
“(I’ve had) face-to-face interactions with (students), and I’m being designated as a threat to them,” Abdollah-nia said. “This is insulting. I feel like I’ve been serving this country as a graduate student, and I’ve been doing lots of teaching here, (and) … a lot of research. I’m just helping this country.”
Abdollah-nia believes the ban targets the wrong people and does nothing to solve terrorism.
“The fact is you actually have never seen anyone from this particular set of countries being involved in any of the attacks over the past years,” Abdollah-nia said. “We understand your security concerns, but if you want to do (something), this doesn’t seem to be the right way at all. I feel like myself and other people are not the people who should be blamed for this, or punished or targeted for this.”
Abdollah-nia said many international students choose to live in uncertainty over returning home to better their futures even though their home countries are not involved with the conflict.
“People are paying the price who are not involved in any of this conflict,” Abdollah-nia said. “They’re involved as much as you as a person are involved with what the U.S. government is doing in Iraq or Afghanistan. You as a student or as an American citizen don’t have much to do with it.”
Collegian reporter Haley Candelario can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @H_Candelario98.