Some members of the UTRGV Muslim Students’ Association worry about their future after President Donald Trump signed an executive order that temporarily suspends entry to the United States for 90 days of citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
“I feel like it’s an unnecessary ban,” said Sidra Rafaqut, a biology sophomore and MSA member. “I don’t say that, like, just biased because I don’t support his other executive orders. I feel like his approach in executing [these orders] … is very problematic and not well thought out.”
Rafaqut was born in Pakistan and moved to the Rio Grande Valley when she was 2 years old.
“Every almost two to three years, we’ll go and visit family,” she said. “We like to keep in touch with our family, so we’re, like, usually going back to maybe celebrate some holidays or reconnect with family.”
Although Pakistan is not listed on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s executive order fact sheet, Rafaqut said she fears Trump’s ban might affect her in the future.
“I wasn’t born here,” she said. “What if he implements some amendments to his ban that prevents me from being with my family, especially my younger siblings who are under the age of 10. I hope it doesn’t have an effect.”
Trump’s executive order, “Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States,” was signed on Jan. 27 and states that “the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.”
The order excludes foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3 and G-4 visas.
Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Yemen and Iran are the seven countries affected by the 90-day ban.
In an interview with The Rider last Thursday, Samantha Lopez, director of International Admissions and Student Services, said nine students from Iran attend UTRGV.
“We sent out a memo to all international students explaining what was happening and what was our position,” Lopez said. “We explained to them that we would continue to monitor the most updated developments regarding the executive order. … We sent the memo on [Jan. 31]. If they have any questions or concerns, [students can] visit us or give us a call.”
Lopez said no students were detained after the executive order was signed.
Biology junior Minal Chama is also a member of MSA.
“On me, personally, it doesn’t have a direct impact,” Chama said about Trump’s executive order. “I do worry for the people that, like, I know that might have friends or family and need to go back and forth. They can no longer do that. It’s going to increase the tension between the Muslim community and the Americans here, even though it shouldn’t but it’s still going to.”
Chama was born in Houston and said she has not faced any unpleasant situations in the Rio Grande Valley.
“[In Houston], you have people that will be like, ‘Go back to your country.’ They’ll say, ‘Go back to India,’” she said. “Here in the Valley, I felt a lot more comfortable. People are much more open and know how to mind their business, and if they’re curious, they’ll ask questions and I’m very open to people asking questions.”
In an email sent to international students, the Office of Global Engagement provided recommendations from International SOS, which is a comprehensive, 24/7 medical and security assistance provider, according to the UT System website.
Some of the recommendations from International SOS include the following:
–Individuals from the affected countries that hold current visas for the U.S. should consult their local U.S. embassy regarding the validity of their entry to the country.
–Citizens from the affected countries who have visas and reside in the U.S. should not travel internationally without a waiver to re-enter the U.S.
–Nationals from countries not listed above are currently not affected by the executive order; however, the situation is fluid, and if they have concerns, they should contact their airline to confirm they will be allowed to board an aircraft to the U.S.
Lopez said if students need to contact her department after business hours, they may call University Police at 665-7151 or 882-8232.
“We will keep them informed as much as we can, as soon as we have more information,” she said. “If they have any questions, we are here to answer them. … If you read the order, it’s just the entry. So, nothing is happening to the people that are here. … [Students] should feel safe and they should continue studying, focusing on their classes and making sure they’re having a successful semester.”
Biology senior and MSA member Abdussamad Syed said he was planning on attending a family wedding in India but is now unsure if he will.
“In the summer, I have family that are getting married in India, so I was hoping to go visit them,” Syed said. “Depending on how this pans out, I don’t know if I can go visit them.”
He said even though he was born in the United States, he plans to be more careful when it comes to travel as precautions for his safety.
UTRGV President Guy Bailey sent an email last Tuesday regarding the Trump’s executive order.
“In light of the recent Executive Order temporarily banning select travelers from seven countries, I want to reaffirm our commitment to all of our students, faculty, and staff regardless of national origin, citizenship, or religious affiliation,” Bailey states in his email. “UTRGV has and will continue to welcome scholars and students from around the world. Although we have a small number of students enrolled from the affected countries and no affected visiting faculty, we value the contributions of these students to UTRGV and our campus community, and all of us are richer because of their contributions. Similarly, we have and will continue to welcome and celebrate our Muslim students, faculty, and staff as well as those of any religious affiliation.”
UT System Chancellor William McRaven also released a statement regarding Trump’s ban.
“In today’s world, our faculty, staff and students need to travel abroad to advance our missions of research, teaching and patient care,” McRaven wrote in his Jan. 31 statement. “So when members of our community must travel, we want them to return to the U.S. safely. We are and will remain committed to that principle, and to them.”
The chancellor said the UT System administration in Austin is ready to help its institutions and their travelers.
“We do have a voice here on campus and I hope we make it heard,” Syed said. “Letting our students know, you know, that we won’t stand for this and I hope that the student body also comes together with us. … This executive order really has separated families. I’ve heard many stories about families not being able to commute with their sons, about being detained and I hope the government fixes this issue soon.”
–Lesley Robles contributed to this report.